Tag Archives: essays

Deep, Deep into a Self: ‘Too Much and Not the Mood’ by Durga Chew-Bose

Too Much and Not the Mood is Durga Chew-Bose’s first essay collection, though Chew-Bose’s writing has been getting published for many years now. Known for her BuzzFeed Reader essay “How I Learned to Stop Erasing Myself,” Chew-Bose’s name has appeared in the same circles as other feminist hipster writers based in New York like Lena Dunham, Tavi Gevinson, and Jazmine Hughes. She is also one of the founders of Writers of Color, a collective of feel-good-yet-aestheticized-sadness progressive writers out on the East Coast. Melancholy, nostalgia, wistfulness, wishful thinking, or the lethargy of a warm summer afternoon are constants in Too …Continue reading

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‘Pain and Loneliness in Equal Measure’: Q&A with Peter Orner

Peter Orner’s Am I Alone Here? Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live (316 pages, Catapult)—which concerns Orner’s favorite stories, the lives of their authors as well as Orner’s own—has a modest subtitle. It suggests the essays in the collection, which was recently named a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, are rough, unfinished. (One of the essays in the collection, “Since the Beginning of Time,” appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 107.) Because Orner maintains this Midwestern-like self-deprecating tone throughout the book, his intellectual rigor might catch you off guard. He takes stories—telling them, reading them—very seriously. …Continue reading

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Thwarted Pilgrimage: ‘White Sands’ by Geoff Dyer

There are a few different types of ignorance at work in Geoff Dyer’s new book, White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World, a collection of essays that combine travel writing and art criticism. One kind is artificial ignorance as an interpretative tool. Often, when he is ignoring information, sloughing off context on which another critic might lean all his weight, Dyer (or the genre-bending author’s narrator whom I will call Dyer) is at his sharpest. In “Space in Time,” the author travels to Quemado, New Mexico, to see Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, but he holds off telling us …Continue reading

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‘Traffic’: 2015 Best American Essays Notable, Issue No. 101

Jim Krusoe’s short but powerful “Traffic” is the second essay from Issue No. 101 to receive a Notable—in this case, from the 2015 Best American Essays anthology. In only four or so pages, Krusoe lays out a childhood memory and takes it apart, seeing clearly a truth about his parents (and a car accident involving a child) that he sensed but hadn’t articulated before.

Krusoe, who lives in Southern California, is the author of the novels “Parsifal” (Tin House), “Girl Factory” (Tin House) and “Iceland” (Dalkey Archive), as well as books of poetry and story collections. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund. The following is “Traffic” in its entirety.

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What It Means to be a Latino Writer: Daniel Olivas’s ‘Things We Do Not Talk About’

“Write what you know” is a common phrase in the writing world. Daniel A Olivas’s new book, Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature Through Essays and Interviews (202 pages; San Diego State University Press), raises and discusses questions with himself and other authors about what it means to be a Latino writer and how that may (or may not) influences their writings. Olivas, the author of seven books (The Book of Want, Latinos in Lotusland), doesn’t claim, though, that this collection of various Latino authors’ ideas and thoughts on their cultural lineages and their work (as captured …Continue reading

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‘Anal, Alimentary, Abstract’: Wayne Koestenbaum’s ‘My 1980s & Other Essays’

Poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum’s newest book, My 1980s & Other Essays (320 pages; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), brings together a wide range of enthralling and intellectually daring texts, ranging from rigorous critical explorations of Susan Sontag and John Ashbery to a diary-style look at the life and work of Lana Turner. The essays vary wildly in length and subject, but are grouped together, vaguely, by theme: the first section contains the closest thing to traditional “personal essays”; the second section tends toward literary critique; the third one toward cinema, celebrity, sex; and so on. Each section feels like a …Continue reading

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Self-Portrait of the Author in ‘the Rush of Life’: Gary Soto’s ‘What Poets Are Like’

For some reason—the imperative-sounding title, perhaps?—it’s easy to imagine a would-be poet leafing through What Poets Are Like: Up and Down With the Writing Life (Sasquatch Books; 236 pages), in expectation of a how-to guide. Such ventures will be somewhat disappointed, at least at first. Gary Soto’s collection of short, autobiographical essays are highly particular and personal, specific to Soto himself. And Soto’s wry, occasionally self-deprecating sense of humor means that, far from extolling the virtues of leading a writer’s life, many of the pieces contained in this collection point out its travails, its small indignities for anyone less of …Continue reading

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A Sexual Greed, Profound and Shallow: Q&A With Chloe Caldwell

There’s a matter-of-factness about Chloe Caldwell’s sexually uninhibited, confessional essays, Legs Get Led Astray (Future Tense Books). “I am the type of person who will give anything to anyone I feel I could love, ” Caldwell writes at one point. Caldwell is young—her work reflects that—but that is not to say the writing is immaterial or inchoate. It’s what I would call a greedy, ugly kind of “young,” the kind that makes you wonder if we are most alive, in a monstrous way, when we’re being hideous and awful. We spoke to her over Facebook about her frank and voracious …Continue reading

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