Books

Read excerpts from some of my books below.
All now available for purchase on Amazon.

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Soul-Error

Not literary criticism, this slender book of essays explores how we misread and reread ourselves and others, over time.  It draws on personal experience, but it is not autobiography.  It aims to shed light on an impersonal human comedy far larger than my own little life story.

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Becoming Faulkner:
The Art and Life of William Falkner

This book argues that the sense of outrage besetting Faulkner's life accounts for his brilliance as a novelist: his capacity to write the assault of the unexpected.  "Become" is a dubious term, for only in retrospect does what strikes as chaos appear later as motivated, charged with implication, something that has "become."  Many writers succeed in writing the calm after the storm.  But it took Faulkner to write the storm that precedes the calm: what trouble feels like when it first hits, as unbearable outrage.

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Unknowing:
The Work of Modernist Fiction

Examining the deployment of space, time, and subjectivity, this book argues that modernist fiction centers on unknowing.  In so doing, such fiction radically revises the Enlightenment-derived commitment to coming to know--the core value motivating Western realism.  The argument begins by way of an anatomy of the Enlightenment principles and practices that enshrine knowing.  It then turns, centrally, to the work of Freud, Proust, Kafka, and Faulkner as modernist exemplars of unknowing.

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Simply Faulkner

This little book attempts something all but impossible: to say what needs to be said about Faulkner's work in less than 100 pages.  The fullness of Becoming Faulkner cannot be accommodated here, but I have sought to retain the essential dimensions of that earlier argument.

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Jonathan Franzen:
The Comedy of Rage

Franzen's third and fourth (richly comedic) novels--The Corrections and Freedom--catapulted him to global recognition.  They also differ so remarkably from his earlier anger-filled novels that a pattern emerges: Franzen as a writer permanently susceptible to rage, Franzen as a great writer when he turns rage into comedy.

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Henry James and the Requirements of the Imagination

At their core, James's novels endorse our pursuit of the largest, most imaginatively conceived life, while at the same time insisting, again and again, on the failure of this pursuit. What might it mean that he seems, simultaneously, to be for--and against--fulfilling life's possibilities?

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The Semantics of Desire:
Changing Models of Identity from Dickens to Joyce

British fiction undergoes a seachange as it proceeds from the Victorian proprieties of Charles Dickens and George Eliot to the Modernist experiments of James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence.  The release of desire--a fearful prospect for Victorian writers--has become a commonplace among Modernist writers.  What are the stakes of this revaluation of values?

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Faulkner's Subject:
A Cosmos No One Owns

Faulkner proudly claimed, some 80 years ago, to be "sole owner and proprietor" of his fictional cosmos.  This book explores the ways in which a contemporary understanding of race, gender, and subjectivity might dethrone the writer from his own novels.  His books continue to matter greatly, but they do so outside the terms of ownership.

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What Else But Love? The Ordeal of Race in Faulkner and Morrison

What picture emerges when we probe, extensively and back to back, the fiction of arguably the two greatest American novelists of the 20th century?  What roles should their race and gender differences play in a consideration of their achievement?