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Michael Dirda

Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic for The Washington Post and a frequent contributor to several literary and cultural periodicals. He is also the author of the memoir An Open Book (Norton, 2003) and of four collections of essays: Readings (Norton, 2003), Bound to Please (Norton, 2004), Book by Book (Holt, 2007), and Classics for Pleasure (Mariner, 2008). His latest book, On Conan Doyle (Princeton, 2011), received an Edgar Award from The Mystery Writers of America as the best biographical/critical work of 2011.


<i>The Dream of the Great American Novel</i> by Lawrence Buell. Harvard University Press, 2014. 500p. HB, $39.95.

The Big Read: Can a Single Book Sum Up a Nation?

Winter 2014 | Criticism

As soon becomes apparent, The Dream of the Great American Novel simply isn’t aimed at the common reader or even at many uncommon ones. The grateful audience for this book will be other scholars and teachers of American literature, who will plunder its pages for decades to come.

Jack London: An American Life. By Earle Labor. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. 480p. HB, $30.

Jack London: Beyond The Call of the Wild

Fall 2013 | Criticism

Before he died at the age of forty, London was the highest-​paid author in America. During an active literary life of less than two decades, he produced roughly fifty works of fiction, journalism, and autobiography, as well as scores of short stories.

Fact & Fiction

Summer 2012 | Criticism

The Lifespan of a Fact questions the degree of importance of that tacit “contract with the reader.” If a work is presented as nonfiction, must it be true? Or can it be kind of true, or just simply true to the subject as a whole even if not nit-pickingly correct?