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Criticism

Recent Issue

<i>Sight Lines</i>. By Arthur Sze. Copper Canyon, 2019. 80p. PB, $16.

“Alone with America”

Much has changed in America and American poetry in the nearly forty years since Richard Howard published his expanded edition of 1969’s Alone With America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950. The 1980 table of contents itself tells a significant tale of those changes: forty-one poets under consideration, six of them women, not one a person of color.


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<i>Boys Will Be Boys: Power, Patriarchy and Toxic Masculinity<I>. By Clementine Ford. One World, 2019. 362pp. PB, $17.95.

Gender Warriors


There are few things in American life more problematic or pratfall-prone than a privileged, straight white man like myself holding forth on the topic of feminism. The innumerable things that men know about the universe and are happy—happy?, no delighted—to tell women about even has its own word now—“mansplaining,” a term I am sure nearly everyone reading this has heard at least once in their life. I’m fortunate enough to have been accused of mansplaining twice just this week, so allow me to explain to the uninitiated how mansplaining works—mansplaining occurs when a man … 

Wait.

Damn.

<i>What is Democracy?</i>. Directed by Astra Taylor. Zeitgeist Films, 2018. 108 minutes.

How Free Is Too Free?

After a fallow period of about fifteen years, in 2014 I returned to driving. Having let my license expire out of pure indolence, I embarked on a process that ended with a road test in deepest Brooklyn. I had no car and no plans to buy one, but within a couple years I was doing more driving than anyone I knew. A needy dog five pounds too big to fly and a sick parent five hundred miles away sent me again and again to the closest rental depot, where I would be handed keys to a compact car of limited but occasionally stark variation. For the same price, I might settle into a vehicle loaded with sixty-seven computers and a heated steering wheel, or a shitbox with no USB port and a tire set to blow on a major Ontario highway. I would study the rental agent’s face as she clacked in the relevant data, looking for some sign of my fate.

VQR Online

Making Sausages: Images of Governance

March 14, 2014

During recent snowbound days, I indulged in a bout of binging the second season of House of Cards, the celebrated political drama starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and a brilliantly cast supporting ensemble. Actually, I did the same binge with the [...]

A Gun and a Girl: The Case for Hard Case Crime

October 4, 2013

Any scan of the bestseller lists shows a national book culture awash in pulp. But all those hungry zombies, vengeful angels, vampire lovers, scrappy postapocalyptic teens, and fairy princess-warriors with wicked blades and toned physiques bear litt [...]

An Open Letter to Jonathan Franzen

September 20, 2013

  Jonathan Franzen at the 2011 Time 100 gala / by David Shankbone   Hi, Jonathan, I read your essay in the Guardian, and, I have to say, I’m worried about your professional legacy. I agree with some of what you had to say, disagre [...]