The Words We Don’t Use: On Eviatar Zerubavel’s “Taken for Granted: The Remarkable Power of the Unremarkable”

American society labors not only under its racist past but also under its homophobia. Because it is the non-emphasized words that show how indebted we are to the tacit norms and prejudices of our society. Just to demonstrate how relevant Zerubavel’s message is, here is a passage that might as well have been inspired by

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Saving the World with Metaphor: Toward an Ecological Poetics

Safina offers the story of Lyall Watson, who describes finding himself in an extraordinarily poignant and personal encounter on the cliffs of South Africa’s seacoast while he was watching a blue whale: The sensation I was feeling on the clifftop was some sort of reverberation in the air itself … The whale had submerged and

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A Chameleonic Career

A 1998 repeal initiative failed in the face of a $40 million industry-funded campaign against it, coming on the heels of “an $87 million advertising campaign — the cost being passed on to ratepayers — explaining the new system to the state’s residents.” Reality begged to differ, however, and Zacchino reports that, in San Diego,

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Feminism’s Styles

They sought a confrontation with reality without sentimentalism, but their anti-feminist posture raises the stakes involved in their collective refusal to explore how emotion and feeling infect and inform reality. […] [T]hey were also, not coincidentally, ambivalent or outright hostile to the feminist movements of their days,” not because of any internalized misogyny or rejection

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“The Dramatis Personae of Our Lives”: On “A Bountiful Harvest: The Correspondence of Anthony Hecht and William L. MacDonald”

They address and sign their letters and postcards with goofy pseudonyms: Admiral Dewey, Milton of Saudi Arabia, Walter Ego, Irving of Arimathaea, Comrade General Ivan Ivanovich, Ethelred the Moderately Well-Prepared, Timon of Brooklyn, and, with a nod to W. For Hecht, poetry seems to have occupied a private, heavily guarded realm — hardly an aberration

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An American Literary Hero’s Complicated Homecoming

The decency that Peck exemplified as an undercover journalist exposing anti-Semitism in Gentleman’s Agreement was amplified in his portrayal of Atticus, and the alchemy of actor and literary character has rarely been as powerful. In Mockingbird, Lee transformed her father — a newspaper editor and Alabama attorney — into the crusading lawyer Atticus Finch, who

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The Dark Forest and Its Discontents: Cixin Liu’s “Death’s End”

¤ Peter Berard is a doctoral candidate in history at Boston College. Rosewater, the guilt-ridden alcoholic millionaire narrator, Eliot Rosewater, crashes a science fiction convention. She has reasons for refusing: there are risks involved in faster-than-light technology, including potentially alerting uber-powerful galactic neighbors — a big no-no according to the dark forest logic she refused

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A New Hope, Ambiguously

¤ Matthew Cheney’s first collection, Blood: Stories, won the Hudson Prize and was published by Black Lawrence Press. The scientists seem to think that a solution to the world’s problems lies in the poetry of a long-ago man, but the subaltern woman is uninterested in simply gazing on the poet and repeating the occasional lines

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Happy Families: Lara Vapnyar on Vesna Goldsworthy’s Adaptation of Tolstoy in “Monsieur Ka”

The real Karenin family did not exist, of course. Albertine’s husband is away most of the time, he has to travel for work, but both Albertine and the reader have the sense that something is wrong, that he’s hiding something from his wife, or that he’s plagued by something grave that he can’t reveal. G.

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“Monster Portraits”: An Exploration of Identity That’s Entirely Unique

The telling of this honor shifts tonally throughout the book, alternating between the monster quest and a more quotidian narrative about the siblings and how they grew up together. Sofia also cites Kathy Acker’s 1984 metafictional novel Blood and Guts in High School in her examination of the female body and female sexuality: “The woman

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The Crass Class in Christine Schutt’s “Pure Hollywood”

Lolly comes across as underdeveloped partly because Schutt substitutes rhetorical questions for the narration of thoughts and feelings. She’s mystically solid and sturdy, a comforting projection in the face of the mother’s anxieties during the dangerous summer of 1985. Mimi remembers their gardener only as “shadowy and poor” and imagines a grim existence for him:

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