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biography

<em>Landwhale: On Turning Insults Into Nicknames, Why Body Image is Hard, and Why Diets Can Kiss My Ass</em>. By Jes Baker. Seal, 2018. 272p. PB, $15.99. </p>

Returning the Gaze

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the recent Women’s Marches is not that they have become an annual event, or that these marches sprung forth all over the globe from Washington, D.C. to Paradise Bay, Antarctica. No, if an alarm should be raised, it’s due to the non-committal response of the patriarchy: a grunt from the woods. 

Male liberal politicians have offered lip service but spent little political capital pushing comprehensive legislation to eliminate the problems that bedevil women’s lives: domestic violence, insufficient health care, and unequal pay. Male conservative operators have predictably been dismissive or patronizing. Media coverage of the marches has consisted of male commentators talking while women are trapped in a small box at the corner of the screen, silenced.

James Boswell and Samuel Johnson: The Original Odd Couple

August 5, 2013

On the morning of August 6, 1763, at the English port of Harwich, a wandering navvy—what Americans would call a dockworker—might have glimpsed a sight passing strange and strangely beautiful. Making their way across the pebble-strewn beach were two men who looked like the original “Odd Couple.”

The Kerouac Voice

Once upon a time in America, five dollars would buy enough gas to drive from Tucson, Arizona, to California. This was during the postwar 1940s, when Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady were making the cross-country road trips, at speeds over a hundred miles an hour, that would provide Kerouac with the material for his classic Beat novel, On the Road.

Story of My Life

There must be dozens of poems with the title “Story of My Life.”Maybe even hundreds. It’s a natural, a même—which is pronounced to rhyme with team, by the way, though I keep thinking it should be meme, as in the French word for “same.” I [...]

Truth About Poe

Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. By Arthur Hobson Quinn. D. Ap-pleton-Century Company. $5.00. Arthur hobson quinn is on the right side of the Poe question; that is, on the side of truth, jus-tice, and conformity to facts. This associates h [...]

Six More Biographies

The Man Charles Dickens. By Edward Wagenknccht. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co. $4.00. Alexander Pope. By Edith Sitwell. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation. $5.00. The Life and Strange Adventures of Daniel De Poe. By Paul Dottin. New York: The [...]

Hearing Lillian Smith

Near the end of her life when she was apparently thinking about doing some autobiographical writing, Lillian Smith told a friend that “to tell the truth I have so many selves that I wonder sometimes how I’d do an autobiography.”

Rilke’s Blue Flower

If Rilke’s early books had been an apprenticeship in the mercurial ways of mood and inspiration, the New Poems signaled a deliberateness that had no need for inspiration to get its work done. The books’ titles tell the story: while New Poems underscored a stark, workmanlike plainness, the earlier titles—Stories of God, The Book of Images, The Book of Hours—bespoke qualities of earnest spirituality and high lyricism. Rodin had come at the right time for Rilke. Against the mannered poetic figure Rilke constructed for himself as a younger man, Rodin introduced a tough physicality. In the New Poems, the best poems have an agility of perception that draws as much from the things perceived as from the poet’s receptivity. The objective world and the world of ego find a perfectly calibrated dynamic, one that renders both self and object glowingly, and impersonally, rich. Mental activity as action distinct from the mess of personality—Rilke saw the economy of this in Rodin.

TR: On Recent Books about Theodore Roosevelt

Assuredly our twenty-sixth American president is far from being forgotten. On the contrary, of late there has been positively a resurgence of historical interest in him. Kathleen Dalton's new biography, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life (2002), is one of the best of at least a half dozen studies to appear within the past ten years. The year before, Edmund Morris published Theodore Rex (2001), covering TR's White House years, the second volume of what, when completed, seems likely be the definitive three-volume assessment. Louis Auchincloss has written a brief, unremarkable biographical summary, Theodore Roosevelt, in a series entitled American Presidents (2002). H. W. Brands's biography, T.R.: The Last Romantic, appeared in 1997, and The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War, by Edward J. Renehan, Jr., in 1998. David McCullough's Mornings on Horseback (1981), an account of TR's younger days, has been reissued with a new introduction (2001). TR plays a commanding role in Warren Zimmerman's First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power (2002) and in James Chace's 1912 (2004).

Some Thoughts on Sylvia Plath

The woman next to me was astonishing in her stillness. She appeared perfectly composed, quiet, almost fixed in her concentration. She was softly pretty, her camel's hair coat slung over the back of her chair and a pile of books in front of her. Her notebook was open, her pencil poised. Everything seemed neat. This was Sylvia Plath.

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