sharon-olds-antonio-olmos-900x675The Poetic Persistence of Sharon Olds | Read It Forward

I have done what you wanted to do, Walt Whitman,
Allen Ginsberg, I have done this thing,
I and the other women this exceptional
act with the exceptional heroic body,
this giving birth, this glistening verb,
and I am putting my proud American boast
right here with the others.                              
—Sharon Olds, “The Language of the Brag,” Satan Says (1980)

It hasn’t been easy being Sharon Olds, especially in terms of the critical response to her work, which has been two-fold: to ignore her completely, or to lambast her for “exhibitionism.” Continue reading…

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An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic 
by Daniel Mendelsohn |
San Francisco Chronicle

The critic James Wood begins his book “How Fiction Works” with this little dictum: “The house of fiction has many windows, but only two or three doors.” The same basic tenet can be applied, I think, to literary criticism. There are only so many ways one can write about a book. There is the New Critics-style textual approach: a no-frills method that sticks to the text itself, analyzing its properties and techniques wholly from within. One may take the historical stance (think of New Historicist critic Stephen Greenblatt) — that is, telling the history of the work itself, its cultural peculiarities, as well as its influence on subsequent generations, in order to gain insight into the time in which it was written. Also, a writer can enumerate his or her own personal experience with a book, a category Joyce Carol Oates referred to as “bibliomemoir”: how it changed, challenged or charged them. A writer can parody a novel or play or poem, employing the same techniques and stylistics, often for the sake of poking fun of the author’s quirks. Then, finally, there is the extrapolative technique, which is predicated on the idea that literature can matter to our everyday lives, or that books can be used to demonstrate principles of other intellectual discourses, like those Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture books that all end with … and Philosophy. Continue reading…

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.15.51 AMSo You Want to Be a Writer? | Read It Forward

Suppose there was some kind of mysterious portal into a magical realm, and you, for all your life, have wanted nothing more than to march right up to that enchanted threshold and toss your body through it. But let’s say, too, that there have been others who’ve entered the portal before you, but when they report about their experiences—reports full of wondrous creatures and fantastic occurrences—their language is riddled with irked reservations, petty complaints, and seemingly obstacle-less problems. Yeah, they seem to say, the realm’s an incredible place—you ain’t seen nothing like it. But does it have to be so damn chilly all the time? Sure, no one actually complained about the chilliness of the place, but they may as well have. Because for you, simply getting into the portal is the whole point of your life, and yet here are these ingrates acting like it’s some burden to exist in a world of imagination. Continue reading…