Book Review: The Idiot

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Idiot: A Novel by Elif Batuman (New York: Penguin Press, 2017. 432 pp) Elif Batuman holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Stanford University. She has been a writer in residence at Koҫ University in Istanbul, the Sidney Harmen Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College, and a fellow at the Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library. Her work has been published in n+1, and The New Yorker. Freshman Feelings Freshman year represents the nexus between adulthood with its responsibility and adolescence with its singularity of the moment. For those of us seeing increasing space between the present and those college years, that brief era feels like the glory days. These early moments outside the parent’s… Read More →

Book Review: No-No Boy

No-No Boy by John Okada

No-No Boy: A Novel by John Okada (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014; originally published in 1957. 282 pp) John Okada was born in Seattle in 1923. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II, attended the University of Washington and Columbia University, and died of a heart attack at the age of 47. No-No Boy is his only published novel. Who Wore It Best? There’s an age-old debate between those that did it first and those that mastered it. Often, the innovator lacks the technical skills of the master, but the master hasn’t done something original, he or she just has done it better. So, when handing out a superlative, how should the judge dictate between that… Read More →

Book Review: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: Stories by David Foster Wallace (New York: Back Bay Books, 2007. 336 pp) Born in Ithaca, New York, David Foster Wallace was a regionally ranked junior tennis player in his youth. He earned a degree in English and Philosophy from Amherst College, winning the Gail Kennedy Memorial Prize. Later, he earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Arizona. Wallace taught literature at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and later became the Roy E. Disney Professor of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Pomona College. Over the course of his career, he earned a MacArthur Fellowship, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, and the Lannan Literary Award. Wallace died… Read More →

Properly Introduced: “Self-Interpreting Animals”

Human Agency and Language by Charles Taylor

“Self-Interpreting Animals” by Charles Taylor 1. Some of our emotions involve import-ascriptions; 2. Some of these imports are subject-referring; 3. Our subject-referring feelings are the basis of our understanding of what it is to be human; 4. These feelings are constituted by the articulations we come to accept of them; and 5. These articulations, which we can think of as interpretations, require language

Book Review: Conversational Design

Conversational Design by Erika Hall

Conversational Design by Erika Hall (New York: A Book Apart, 2018. 134 pp) Erika Hall has been working in web design and development since the late twentieth century. In 2001, she cofounded Mule Design Studio, where she leads the strategy consulting practice. Her enthusiasm for evidence-based decision-making led her to write Just Enough Research. She speaks frequently to international audiences on topics ranging from collaboration and design research to effective interface language. Her current talks explore the limits of using quantitative data to make design decisions. Computer Talk It feels like a couple of years ago society hit a fulcrum, and conversation shifted dramatically. Where communication between people often occurred verbally, communication with machines happened largely through code or writing…. Read More →

Book Review: There There

There There by Tommy Orange

There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 300 pp) Tommy Orange is a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow and a 2016 Writing By Writers Fellow. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he was born and raised in Oakland, California, and currently lives in Angels Camp, California. Birthday Expeditions Recently on a birthday expedition, my wife and I played tourist for a day and ventured to the Seattle waterfront. A changing city, the waterfront operates at the front edges of its own transformation, a tunnel underneath burrowing to replace the dangers of a viaduct highway. A… Read More →

Book Review: Fire Sermon

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

Fire Sermon: A Novel by Jamie Quatro (New York: Grove Press, 2018. 224 pp) Jamie Quatro holds an MA in English from the College of William and Mary, and an MFA in fiction from the Bennington College Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Ploughshares, McSweeney’s, The Kenyon Review, VQR, and Agni. Her debut collection, I Want to Show You More, gained critical acclaim and Fire Sermon is her debut novel. Quatro teaches in the MFA program at Sewanee, The University of the South. She lives with her husband and four children in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Hooked on a Feeling What’s the theological significance of a feeling? What weight should we place on those gut instincts—the emotions that… Read More →

Book Review: Calypso

Calypso by David Sedaris

Calypso by David Sedaris (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 272 pp) David Sedaris is an American humorist and the author of Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, among many others. He graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago and currently lives in West Sussex, England. When You’re Here, You’re Here When you’re here, your family. Or as a comedian suggested in his faux AI take on Olive Garden, when you’re here, you’re here. The sentiment from either slogan pushes for the value of place when building relationships. For families, aging scatters family members to the wind. Kids grow up, leave their parents, chart their own path. So, then… Read More →

Book Review: Out in the Open

Out in the Open by Jesus Carrasco

Out in the Open: A Novel by Jesús Carrasco, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (New York: Riverhead Books, 2015, originally published in 2013. 240 pp) Jesús Carrasco was born in Badajoz, Spain, and now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. He received the European Union Prize for Literature in 2016. Out in the Open, his debut novel, was a bestseller in Spain, has been published in twenty-five languages, and is the winner of many international awards, including an English PEN award. Margaret Jull Costa has been translating Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American fiction—including authors like Javier Marías—for more than twenty years. Every Story Needs Salt and Pepper The motifs sitting just underneath the surface of a story tell us how to feel…. Read More →

Book Review: Pops

Pops by Michael Chabon

Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon (New York: Harper, 2018. 144 pp) One of the most celebrated writers of his generation according to The Virginia Quarterly Review, Michael Chabon was born in Washington D.C. He earned his B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and his M.F.A from the University of California, Irvine. Chabon published his first novel, The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh, from his master’s thesis at the age of 25. His third novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won Chabon the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. The Hardest Job Parenting is the most challenging thing I’ve ever set off to accomplish. While my second son may have… Read More →