Archive for February, 2005

In this early example of the Japanese essay, Shonagon lists characteristics, habits, etc. that she finds hateful. Most of these annoyances are articulated in a sentence, maybe two, thus the essay tends to have a bit of an abrupt feeling as Shonagon jumps from one annoyance to the next. The brief paragraphs are tied together […]


This novel seems like a modern-day version of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” In Gilman’s story the unnamed narrator is literally imprisoned in a room that separates her from the rest of her family and the outside world. Gilman wrote the piece to protest a popular medical treatment of her time, which prescribed total […]


In this essay, James Baldwin explores the complexities of both race relationships and familial relationships. Concerning his relationship with his father, Baldwin admits toward the beginning of the essay: “We had got on badly, partly because we shared, in our different fashions, the vice of stubborn pride.” This admission sets the tone for the rest […]


I don’t believe I’ve ever read a doctor’s account of a surgery. I was surprised that Selzer is so sympathetic to the patient’s position. I would expect a doctor to be comfortable with his tools, but Selzer is as wary of the scalpel as the anesthetized patient on the table. Unlike H.G. Wells’ Dr. Moreau, […]


In “The Passover Guest,” Aleichem explores the importance of storytelling. The narrator “was wild with curiosity to see the guest who didn’t understand Yiddish, and who talked with a’s” and he “puffed up with pride as [he] follow[ed] my father and his guest to [his] house, and feel how all [his] comrades envy [him].” At […]


There really isn’t much to say about this collection of critical essays other than I recommend it. I realize that one must be of a certain ilk to enjoy reading a book about a man reading books, but Hornby’s ordinary (in the best sense possible), conversational voice makes these essays very accessible. He offers intelligent […]


“The face of love.” So love is someone who is completely and utterly dependent upon you? Someone whose wet blankets you change several times daily and expects a reward for wetting them. Someone who needs you to carry her up the stairs. Someone who wakes you three times during the night to use the bathroom. […]


In both of the short stories by Ann Beattie that I have read—this one and “Janus”—Beattie uses the environment to delicately define a relationship. In “Snow” the lovers’ conflicting memories of a snowy winter reflect their incompatibility. The woman remembers the life and magic behind everything surrounding her: “…finding some of the house’s secrets, like […]


Probably the aspect of the English language that bothers me the most is the fact that one word is used for both singular and plural second person. This lack of distinction has spawned several irritating alternative expressions for the plural “you,” “y’all” being the one that particularly frosts my cookies. “You guys” seems to be […]


Fleur seems to be some totem for the power of women. Local folklore credits Fleur with the death of two men—she seems to absorb the power of men to keep living. She becomes a somewhat androgynous figure. The narrator describes her as: Her cheeks were wide and flat, her hands large, chapped, muscular. Fleur’s shoulders […]