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Criticism

<i>Calling a Wolf a Wolf</i>. By Kaveh Akbar. Alice James, 2017. 100p. PB, $16.95.

Toward a New Masculinity

   “Women have their faults, men have only two: everything they say, everything they do,” goes an old adage I remember fellow feminists wisecracking for most of my life. I was born in the seventies and am a nineties feminist. In my [...]

<i>Magdalene</i>. By Marie Howe. Norton, 2017. 96p. HB, $25.95.

Selvages

Perhaps poets are attracted to edges because, as Anne Carson puts it in Eros the Bittersweet, “Words…have edges. So do you,” and perhaps also because notions of the self tend to form in response to and because of those limits. Identity—what Emily Dickinson called the “Campaign inscrutable / Of the interior”—has always concerned the lyric poet, but what might constitute a “self” has perhaps never been more prevalent on the public radar than in our current moment. In three new, mercurial books—Magdalene, by Marie Howe; In Full Velvet, by Jenny Johnson; and Milk Black Carbon, by Joan Naviyuk Kane —poets resist, succumb to, and transgress the identities—familial, social, ecological, biological, sexual—to which they attend.

Screening the World

Television may be remembered, among other things, as having entered a “golden age” even as it ceased to exist. As a term, television feels increasingly inapt, vestigial, at risk of acquiring the air quotes that presage irrelevance. Still, it refers to a form—episodic, moving-image narrative—for which we have not yet found a better alias, beyond awkward talk of streaming content and on-demand services, and the shorthand that is Netflix, a brand name that suggests the merger of two media, neither of which is television. As good “television” proliferates, television as a medium and as an experience is in decline.

Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer. By Arthur Lubow. Ecco, 2016. 734 p. HB, $35.

Street Casting

What kind of energy do we get from the streets? What does it give us and how much do we need it? The publication of Arthur Lubow’s biography, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, and a national tour of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, a career retrospective of the artist’s work organized by the Brooklyn Museum in 2015,* highlight how certain artists are able to tap into street energy, and what they extract from it.

Impossible Bottle. By Claudia Emerson. LSU, 2015. 65p. PB, $17.95.

Ecstatic Sorrow

Claudia Emerson, who died in December 2014, had come to be known as a poet capable of revealing startling discoveries inside quiet, quotidian circumstances. Her poems are set mostly in Southern rural and small-town scenes, moments in ordinary lives that would normally elude anyone else’s attention.

Go Set a Watchman. By Harper Lee. Harper, 2015. 278p. HB, $27.99.

Scout Comes Home Again

As admirable and courageous as the film’s Atticus is, this lionization goes way too far in construing the novel’s Atticus in our memory as some sort of social reformer. 

André Løyning

Knausgaard’s Triumph

All of this is surprisingly interesting, even addictive, as has often been pointed out in reviews. But no one can pinpoint precisely why. A striking element in the praise of Knausgaard—and he has garnered almost uniform praise in the English-speaking press—is the recourse to vocabulary not normally considered complimentary. “Boring” comes up an enormous amount.

The Story of My Teeth.  By Valeria Luiselli.  Translated by Christina MacSweeney. Coffee House, 2015. 184p. PB, $16.95.

The Art of the Steal

As we discussed some of his favorite authors—from Heinrich von Kleist and Virginia Woolf to Jack Kerouac and Jayne Anne Phillips—Doctorow asked: “What can you steal from these writers?”

Science Fiction vs. Fantasy

Whereas the proto–science fiction of a century past (H. G. Wells, Octavia E. Butler, Edgar Rice Burroughs) looked to a bright if complex future, we can now scarcely imagine one that’s not irredeemably awful. 

Concepts of Freedom

Freedom Forgotten and Remembered. By Helmut Kuhn. University of North Carolina Press. $2.50. The Freedom to Be Free. By James Marshall. The John. Day Company. $2.50. The Machiavellians. By James Burnham. The John Day Company. $2.50. "IT IS ludic [...]

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