Books

Spoiler Alert: Somebody Dies

As kids we tie blankets around our necks, leap from our bunks saying WOOSH!, put hands to hips, quips to lips, and rescue prone stuffed animals who have been abducted by standing stuffed animals, or maybe…

Poetry’s Big Wheel Keep On Turning

The poetry critic Michael Robbins recently published his first book of poems, Alien vs. Predator. It follows that you might assume this is a collection of poems somehow about the big-budget B-movie of the same name.…

Like Drawing Blood

You may already be familiar with Eduardo C. Corral or have heard of his debut collection, Slow Lightning, published by Yale University Press this past spring. If you read poetry blogs or follow the parlor talk…

Tits of Peculiar and the OCD

One of many reasons my freshman literature students hate poetry is that “it has too many meanings,” can be “whatever you want it to be.” Kids these days like absolution, definition—an answer to life’s persistence that…

Getting to Know Benjamin Busch, One Chapter At a Time

An unprecedented thing happened as I read Benjamin Busch’s memoir Dust to Dust: in one sitting, I never read more or less than one chapter. First “ARMS,” then “WATER,” then “METAL,” “SOIL,” “BONE,” “WOOD,” “STONE,” “BLOOD,”…

The Little Gay Engine That Could

As a genderqueer woman who has stood on the sidelines of many straight and queer weddings—sometimes with pom-poms, sometimes not—I will admit I opened Here Come the Brides!: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, an anthology edited…

Chaotic, Contradictory, and the Whole Truth

T.M. Wolf’s debut novel Sound (2012) is an early 21st century bildungsroman: Cincy Stiles has dropped out of graduate school, unable to finish his dissertation in philosophy because after semesters of trying, he can’t unify his moods,…

Liz Moore, My Father, Fate, and Free Will

So Facebook’s “gone public.” Not a minute too soon for that company, so uncharitable to privacy. But after reading Liz Moore’s intensely private Heft, I’ll say it now: I don’t think Facebook is going to do…

The Doing and Undoing of Philosophy

In A Treatise of Human Nature, Scottish philosopher David Hume remarked that “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and…

Trop Quiz: James vs. James

James Franco has a wide range of literary experience. In 2010 he played Allen Ginsberg in the film Howl, received an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia, and released Palo Alto, a collection of short stories.…

Busted Membranes and Neon Flowers

Everyone’s talking about the cover of Heidi Julavits’s new novel, The Vanishers. When my friend Jill bought it, the bookstore cashier went on about how the cover would be better off as a skirt. When I…

Blurb Test: Ben Ehrenreich

With Blurb Test, we evaluate not a book but a blurb—one of the overabundant praise-nuggets publishers drop to try and entice consumers. Blurb habitats include book jackets, author and publisher homepages, and retail sites like Amazon. Often…

Two-Man Book Club: Ben Marcus

I’m in a two-man book club with my athletic and morally upstanding friend, Jake. Last weekend we convened at his apartment in Los Feliz. He sat on an Ikea couch with a white cover that he’d…