When You Go Away: Remembering W. S. Merwin

When I think of W. S. Merwin, I think of oysters. Not his writing about them but his eating them. I saw him do so in 2013, when I brought him to Emory as part of a reading series I ran there. It was one of his last visits to the mainland from his adopted …

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The Reënchantment of Carolee Schneemann

My introduction to the work of Carolee Schneemann was an ironic rehash of her iconic 1975 work “Interior Scroll.” It came in a Ms. Lower East Side contest in the early nineties, an era in which I was immersed in Judson Church performance culture, as Carolee had been thirty years prior, when she marshalled “raw …

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The Moral Failings of American Press Coverage of Nazi Germany

A few weeks ago, a six-thousand-word article in Esquire on the unexceptional life of a white teen-ager in peri-urban Wisconsin generated a furious online backlash. It appeared on the cover of the March issue, which was released in February—Black History Month—under the billing “An American Boy.” Many commentators on Twitter decried the magazine’s decision to …

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When Harper Lee Doodled in Shakespeare Class

She wasn’t one for self-portraits. Not counting Jean Louise (Scout) Finch, the only picture Harper Lee is known to have made of herself is one she literally drew: a pen-and-ink sketch in which she is asleep. A line of “Z”s connects Lee, curled up on a bed, to a dream bubble that contains her two …

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Two Début Novels Explore How to Be Good

Fiction that dramatizes the struggle to be good is filtering down like a soft light on our messy present. “Such Good Work,” a first novel by the Swedish-American writer Johannes Lichtman, is one example; “The Altruists,” a début from Andrew Ridker, is another. Both authors came up in the M.F.A. system; both cast a brilliant …

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