Margot’s Brain Shelf

I’m currently writing about how the cinema affects memory, looking at how writers have invoked specific spaces—such as the attic, boarding school, or riverfront—to function as sites of memory in cinematic ways. Virginia Woolf got me started. Born before motion pictures were invented, Woolf in her one piece of film criticism (“The Cinema,” 1926) expresses […]

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks: A Glossary

      Act of Hiatus (n. phrase): A mental feat performed by atemporals, whereby a fugue state is induced in the subject that prevents the registering of experience for a given period of time; may be used for benevolent or malevolent purposes. (Note: I’d appreciate an Act of Hiatus now and then.) Anchorites (prop. n., […]

The Man Who Walked Away: A Conversation with Novelist Maud Casey

Jason In The Man Who Walked Away, your protagonist Albert Dadas is a tender creature. He’s got a filmy quality. In your words: “It was as though he’d always been there, haunting the landscape, if only you were paying attention.” He wanders around Europe in fugue states. Again, in your words, “When Albert walked, he was […]

Del Dios

Tectonic plates gnashed at each other beneath a few hundred acres of southern California land, thirty miles inland from what would eventually become the coastal towns of Del Mar, Cardiff, and Encinitas. Escondido and Rancho Bernardo grew on either side of what would become Highway 15, a stretch of asphalt that divided and linked them, […]

Writers’ Blog Tour

Welcome to the writers’ blog tour. I hear it’s sweeping the nation. I’m thankful Maud Casey–for being Maud,  for inviting me to join the tour, and for writing  The Man Who Walked Away, a tender and somehow physical novel that I’ve thought about most days since I read it. You can read Maud’s eloquent contribution to the […]

Ebenezer’s Magic Lanterns

I never thought I’d teach Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. I always thought of it as sappy and grim–not an appealing combination. But a literary critic, Joss Marsh, gave me a whole new view of Dickens’s perennially adapted story about greed, memory, haunting, and transformation. Joss Marsh helped me learn to like a book I […]

Jane Eyre, Goth Girl

Jane Eyre is a strange creature. Charlotte Brontë’s heroine–often thought of as a kind of every girl–is much weirder than she gets credit for. She’s a taciturn idealist with a gothic imagination who spends much of her waking life “in a kind of artist’s dreamland” drawing shipwrecks, corpses, and icebergs; she prefers rudeness and downright […]

“I Am Ryder”; or, My Life as Somebody Else

A Conversation about Novel Reading, with Gloria Fisk Does reading a novel change you? Can a novel make a person more compassionate or cosmopolitan, as philosopher Richard Rorty suggested in the late eighties? Or more foolhardy, even delusional, as Victorian public intellectual Margaret Oliphant was fond of warning her contemporaries? It’s a huge pleasure to […]

Jane Austen’s Hypochondriacs

Jane Austen wants us to know at least four things about hypochondriacs: 1.) They are compulsive storytellers, 2.) They have little sympathy (a quality she valorizes in other characters), 3.) They use their stories to control others, 4.) Their suffering is real nonetheless, so they deserve the sympathy they can’t give others. I’m teaching the […]

My grandpa was a tiny party. The photos prove it.

At twelve, Ralph is a tiny party writhing under the heavy hands of frustrated nuns. St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Francisco doesn’t suit him. Most of these boys got here through a petty crime, their own or their parents. For others it was a parent’s suicide or murder. For Ralph, it was his […]

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