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Tag: writing

Review: George Eliot’s “Middlemarch”

“The right word is always a power, and communicates its definiteness to our action.” From time to time, I stumble across a novel that invites me to completely rediscover the inexhaustible elegance of the English language. George Eliot’s Middlemarch is one of those rare works. This exceptional story made me laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously, and rejuvenated [...]

Review: Kiese Laymon’s “Heavy”

The best thing any story can do is bring people closer together. Sometimes people derive common cause from a story. Sometimes lovers find each other in the dark because the story turns the lights out. Sometimes enemies discover in the story one another’s mortal weakness. Sometimes the reader and author, separate in every way the [...]

My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2018

Introduction: Finding my Frame With each passing year, it seems the world is digging a bigger hole for itself. Whether it’s politics, war, technological disruption, hypercapitalism, climate change, or one of so many other global ills, anyone who’s paying attention has an endless list of things to lament. Yet the sun rises. We wake up, [...]

Review: Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”

It’s been a long time since I read anything by Ernest Hemingway, and even longer since I first read The Old Man and the Sea in my teens. This time around, the book proved both more and less impressive than I remember. Hemingway’s prose, although clean and efficient, rings somewhat hollow for me now. I think this [...]

Review: Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible”

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is an unmistakably brilliant book that didn’t quite work for me. Like the Congo jungle in which the majority of the novel takes place, Kingsolver’s prose is dense and overflowing with biotic energy: Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. First, picture the forest. I want you to be [...]

Working It Out: Reflections on a Five-Year Experiment

Introduction: How I Got Here Five years ago, in October 2013, I committed myself to an experiment that felt both comfortably secure and quite risky. After teaching abroad in Japan for a year, I returned to my hometown in Humboldt County, CA, moved in with my mother and girlfriend, and actively eschewed all forms of [...]

Review: Elena Ferrante’s “The Story of a New Name”

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels deserve every bit of the intense praise heaped on them by critics and readers. Even though I have only finished two of the four novels, it seems undeniable to me that this series occupies a superior position in 21st-century literature. The second book picks up right where My Brilliant Friend left off, with all the [...]

Review: Richard Wright’s “Black Boy”

Recently, the desire arose in me to read something that might help me better understand the internal perspectives of African-Americans and my country’s ignominious legacy of slavery. My mother, who spent a long career teaching American history to undergraduates, recommended Richard Wright’s autobiography, Black Boy. And although I expected the book to be good, I didn’t anticipate [...]

Review: André Aciman’s “Call Me by Your Name”

André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name is a tender love story that ultimately failed to seduce me. The protagonist is Elio, a precocious seventeen-year-old poised to blossom into a gifted musician. The bulk of the book takes place during the summer of 1987, when a beautiful twenty-four-year-old pre-Socratic scholar named Oliver comes to live with Elio [...]

Review: Cixin Liu’s “Remembrance of Earth’s Past”

Cixin’s Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past is a perfect and peerless narrative achievement. Not only is it the best piece of science fiction I’ve ever read, but it would also be a strong contender for my favorite story of all time. I think that giving away any major plot points or world-building features would do a disservice [...]