Reading, Writing, and Publishing

The Cruising Speed of Mourning

The Cruising Speed of Mourning

or, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to a Review of a Kierkegaard Biography

I listened to music and podcasts. I called my sister; I called my friend Anika. My wife called me every hour or so to check in. I missed my dad. He was always the guy to call on a long drive—time was the one thing he had heaps of, sitting home depressed all day, and he loved to give it away to whoever wanted it. He was perhaps the greatest talker—but also listener—I have ever known.

My Lanyarded Brethren

My Lanyarded Brethren

Report from AWP 2020

AWP 2020, sparsely attended compared to the usually robust turnout in years’ past, was spread out on a soft teal green carpet that looked a little like grass. Rows of bright white tables, some empty, others covered in books and candy and tote bags, formed aisle after aisle. Planted in the middle of the broad avenues, where guests wandered, dazed or determined, were old-timey benches presumably for guests to sit and read under the fluorescent lights.

Pollito, Chicken; Gallina, Hen

Pollito, Chicken; Gallina, Hen

American Dirt in Mexico

Notice how the register of the prose, with its figures and rates, evokes the rhetoric of nonfiction. The use of general, declarative sentences about Mexico, in particular, makes me think of what my journalism professors used to call the nut-graf—the paragraph in the article where the journalist briefly pauses her account of the news to establish, in the most efficient way possible, the context for the events on which she is reporting. The result is that Cummins’s book often slips into didacticism.

An Evening With George Steiner (1929–2020)

A critic and his critics

George Steiner is a charming but monstrous narcissist, and the evening spent with him and the Poet at the Professor of Poetry’s house was amazing. Things got started when another Professor, the Poet, and an Artist (the Poet’s spouse), complained laughingly about the xerox machine in the University English Department.

Working Through

Working Through

On Vigdis Hjorth and the incest novel

Why did this story in particular of loss and violation raise such a tumult in me? I’ve been no stranger to them. Bergljot keeps referring to some Danish film I’d never heard of, called Festen. For me, it was finding my mother’s copy of The God of Small Things when I was maybe twelve or thirteen, reading it over and over since, the similarities between my own family and the family in the novel becoming ever clearer. Some parts, even thinking about them as I write this, are seared into me, even now, they send currents thrilling through my electrified blood.