Category Archives: Books

“That is no country for old men.” — William Butler Yeats

“I thought we might bring the halves together if we had a national literature that made Ireland beautiful in the memory, and yet had been freed of provincialism by an exacting criticism, a European pose.” — W.B. Yeats William Butler … Continue reading

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“I am the most famous unknown of the century.” — Djuna Barnes

When Barnes called herself a “famous unknown” she may have been being elliptical or ironic. Her writing was not known for its literal through-line. But she was also very well-known for her love affairs with women, and immortalized in print … Continue reading

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For Liberties: Interview with Sean Abley, co-editor of Queer Horror: A Film Guide

For the next essay in my “Movies Before Breakfast” column at Liberties magazine, I interviewed Sean Abley about his upcoming book Queer Horror: A Film Guide (a book which he co-edited). 8 writers are on the marquee, all of whom … Continue reading

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“Language most shows a man. Speak that I may see thee.” — Ben Jonson

“O rare Benn Johnson.” — Jonson’s incorrectly-spelled epitaph in Westminster Abbey It’s his birthday today. Ben Jonson did everything. Plays, poems, satires, elegies, epigrams. His talent was wide and flexible. Everything he wrote feels inevitable. However, as Michael Schmidt writes … Continue reading

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“I want to write poems that will be non-compromising.” — poet Gwendolyn Brooks

It’s her birthday today. I first encountered Gwendolyn Brooks’s stuff in Humanities in high school. Brooks’ most famous poem is “We Real Cool”. We Real Cool The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel. We real cool. We Left school. … Continue reading

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“Literature is the written expression of revolt against expected things.” Happy Birthday to the least happy man ever, Thomas Hardy

“A certain provincialism of feeling is invaluable. It is the essence of individuality, and is largely made up of that crude enthusiasm without which no great thoughts are thought, no great deeds done.” — Thomas Hardy That quote above from … Continue reading

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“[My ambition is to] give something to our literature which will be our own.” — Walt Whitman

“I like to think that eventually he will shame us into becoming Americans again.” — Guy Davenport on Walt Whitman Whitman is the organizing principle behind my review of Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Bob Dylan quotes Whitman all the … Continue reading

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“If I am going to be a poet at all, I am going to be POET and not NEGRO POET.” — poet Countee Cullen

Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing! — Countee Cullen It’s his birthday today. Cullen is often compared to Langston Hughes (my post on Hughes here), seems a little unfair, … Continue reading

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“Manuscripts don’t burn.” — Mikhail Bulgakov

…Speaking of Mohammad Rasoulof… It’s Mikhail Bulgakov’s birthday. The author of The Master and Margarita, one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. (It’s not his only work. There are many others. But I’ll be focusing on Master and … Continue reading

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“I was a sinister child, lazy and cynical.” — Eve Babitz

“What I wanted, although at the time I didn’t understand what the thing was because no one ever tells you anything until you already know it, was everything. Or as much as I could get with what I had to … Continue reading

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