The Marathon of Infinite Jest

A novel 1,079 pages long is not the best one to start reading on a dare. But after my brother insulted my reading abilities, I had to. Of course, I was unprepared. Traveling all over Boston, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest weaved a tale of drug addiction, tennis fanatics, and Canadian extremists all the while […]

Five Great Film Adaptations of American Literature

5. No Country for Old Men (2007, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen) Cormac McCarthy’s novels are notoriously difficult to adapt for the screen (an adaptation of Blood Meridian has been circling around the Hollywood rumor mill for years, and the project has fallen through at least twice) but if anyone were to create the quintessential […]

50 States, 50 Novels – Part 8

Oklahoma – The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939) Although Steinbeck’s novel traverses several states, it gave human faces to a group that, at the time, were disparagingly referred to simply as “Okies.” Steinbeck’s novel also serves as a lament for the Oklahoma landscape, torn up by monstrous machines, and the changing face of […]

Stuart Brent Books: A Memory

Stuart Brent Books was a magical bookstore on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, owned and managed by the strange and wonderful Stuart Brent. Both are gone now, but a week doesn’t go by that I don’t wish I could go back. I grew up a few miles away, believing that there was an unbridgeable gap between the […]

At Home With Hemingway

In the middle of summer on the beautiful campus of Dominican University in Oak Park, Ill., there was a lot of talk of icebergs. But it wasn’t because people wanted to cool off – it was because more than 300 people from 18 countries had gathered for the 17th Biennial International Hemingway Society Conference (co-hosted by […]

Books on the Small Screen

Every so often, literature appears outside of literature. The Shakespearean “sleep of death” catalyzes the major events of the film, What Dreams May Come. Homer Simpson daydreams about spending his unemployment by a Waldenesque pond (and journaling about how much he misses TV). A few recent television shows feature particularly thoughtful references to American literature. […]

The Something Wonderful of Cormac McCarthy

If there is a literary late bloomer, it is Cormac McCarthy. For much of his writing career, Cormac lived in obscurity and squalor. His first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1965. But despite his strong reputation, 30 years later, McCarthy’s books never sold more than 5,000 hardcover copies. That included his Blood Meridian, […]

50 States, 50 Novels – Part 7

New Mexico – Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (1972) One of the cornerstones of Chicano literature, Rudolfo Anaya’s debut novel is an astonishing first person narrative following the life of Antonio, who recounts memories of his childhood in small town New Mexico. New York – The Assistant by Bernard Malamud (1957) New York City […]

5 Spoken Word Poems to Listen to Today

Looking for a healthy dose of word play, rhythm, intense imagery, and engaging showmanship? Look no farther than Spoken Word poetry. It has always been around, but with the emergence of Youtube and other social media platforms, the art form has seen a flurry of new, at times viral, activity. Whether you’re a newcomer Spoken […]