The notion of being taught language has always been oxymoronic because language is in a constant state of flux, a restless, malleable, impatient entity that, like the idea of now, can never be fixed in place. Take, for instance, the journey of the semicolon as chronicled in the delightful, enlightening new book by Cecelia Watson, Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark. The twisty history of the hybrid divider perfectly embodies the transience of language, the ways it can be shaped by cultural shifts that have nothing to do with correctness or clarity. Invented by the Italian humanist and font pioneer Aldus Manutius in the late-15th century, the semicolon was originally “meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon” (hence its design). Continue reading…
An Atheist in West Africa | Northwest Review of Books
How does an atheist approach a novel by a Catholic, albeit a less than strict one? Or maybe the better question is: Can I write about The Heart of the Matter and see only what I wish to see, authorial intention be damned? Countless pages have been dedicated to the role (or lack thereof) of the author in a text’s interpretation, but what do I do in this instance?
E.E. Cummings: A Life | The Georgia Review, Fall 2014
I review Susan Cheever’s E.E. Cummings: A Life in the newest issue of The Georgia Review! Cummings was a major influence on my younger self––probably the writer who inspired me to start writing. Later, I was the Program Director at Forest Hills Cemetery, where Cummings is buried. And now a review in a major literary journal. All because of this wonderful poet and person. I owe him my life, probably. Click here to order a copy!
Colorless Tzukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage | The Rumpus
A novelist makes choices—each element of a given book (from the smallest detail to the most prominent theme) reflects those choices. Murakami, who is undoubtedly a great novelist, does not usually make decisions carelessly. Here, the brutality inflicted upon Shiro is meant merely to amplify the internal plight of Tsukuru. Shiro ends up not just a sexist, irresponsible depiction, but a lazy one, too.
The Art of Homage | The Millions
Homage is a way of acknowledging our forbearers, to celebrate where we came from by updating the past, calling back to it, poking fun at it, challenging it, embracing it, adoring it. Oates goes at it directly, Cunningham a little more abstractly, and Lang indirectly and directly. There is no right way to pay homage any more than there is a right way to love something.