The Sense of a Beginning

I am writing an essay or story or a book (it doesn’t really matter which and I’m not sure I myself know which yet) and I need a first line, something to launch the thing; something that will hook the reader; something, perhaps even more crucially, that will hook me; something that will get me […]


My Books of 2012

Books I’ve loved this year in no particular order and not necessarily published in 2012: Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey Poets were writing the best non-fiction prose I read this year, both allusive (which I’d expect) but also incisive. See also Christian Wiman Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White The first great Victorian thriller […]


Michael Gorra on The Portrait of a Lady

The critic Arnold Kettle once called The Portrait of a Lady a nineteenth-century version of Paradise Lost, a book about the end of a dream, about the loss of faith in individual autonomy; and the novel’s last pages will give that comparison some point. But many, indeed most, nineteenth-century novels are concerned with the limits […]


A Poem for September by the Madman-Poet-Saint John Clare.


Work in Progress

When Mr. White looks in a mirror–he’s not much given to doing that; he’s had no mirror handy for a quarter century–he sees Mr. White as he’s always seemed to himself, a face like the man in the moon, a face without much expression that’s doing nothing so much as looking back at him, trying […]