What Denis Johnson and Hamlin Garland Have in Common

What do Denis Johnson and Hamlin Garland—two writers seemingly otherwise unrelated—have in common? Johnson is the lit-famous author of  Tree of Smoke: A Novel and Jesus’ Son: Stories. Hamlin Garland used to be quite famous, but now rarely appears outside of footnotes in anthologies. Johnson’s Train Dreams: A Novella was a Pulitzer finalist this year; Garland […]

Built Out of Loneliness: Paul Murray’s “Skippy Dies”

About halfway through Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies, one of the schoolboy characters, Ruprecht, reconsiders the intracacies of his beloved String Theory: Our universe, one could almost say, is actually built out of loneliness; and that foundational loneliness persists upwards to haunt every one of its residents. The loneliness, Ruprecht believes (at least at this particular […]

Anxiety is Omnivorous; or, Can Reading Ever Be Bad For You?

I would recommend  this fantastic piece over at Guernica. It’s about the anxiety of the writer Daniel Smith, which prompts many questions about anxiety generally. Somehow I missed this one (it was published a little less than a month ago). But it’s a must-read. Smith has written about anxiety for the New York Times and has a forthcoming […]

Essay on “Main-Travelled Roads” at The Millions.

My essay on the under-appreciated author Hamlin Garland is now live over at The Millions. It opens: In 1887, Hamlin Garland, then a 27-year-old aspiring writer, traveled by train from Boston back to his family’s farm in Ordway, South Dakota. Having spent most of his life in the Midwest, and shuttling around the Dakotas, Iowa, and […]

Charles Olson and “The Art of Fielding”

The scholar’s dream: the finding of a rare text that illuminates an author or a period of history, or that allows us to reconsider something we otherwise thought well-established. Chad Harbach’s novel The Art of Fielding, which I recently reviewed, contains such an event—an event, as it turns out, that was probably based on a real […]

Hamlin Garland

I received word today that the best lit blog on the Internet, The Millions, is going to publish my essay on the (sadly forgotten) writer Hamlin Garland. I’m thrilled. I wrote the piece after stumbling on “Under the Lion’s Paw” in an anthology, and then picking up a used copy of Garland’s debut collection of […]

Literary Boroughs: Omaha

Over at the usually-excellent Plougshares, the series Literary Boroughs makes a stop in Omaha: It’s a terrific habitat for someone with a writerly sensibility, particularly in a recession: affordable housing, some quiet time, a culturally satisfying lifestyle, and a compassionate community willing to help you see your harebrained idea through to its fruition. Including Jackson […]

First post.

Just registered the site—and am going to get the blog up and running soon. I have been everywhere from Blogger to Tumblr, and now I’ve ventured off on my domain/site here, with some help from WordPress. This blog will focus on books and literature, my own writing and others’, with a dash of the other […]