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Literary Criticism

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  1. 15.2 hrs • 9/20/2016 • Unabridged

    A new collection of critical and personal essays on writing, obsession, and inspiration from National Book Award–winning and New York Times bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates. “Why do we write?” With this question, Joyce Carol Oates begins an imaginative exploration of the writing life, and all its attendant anxieties, joys, and futilities, in this collection of seminal essays and criticism. Leading her quest is a desire to understand the source of the writer’s inspiration—do subjects haunt those that might bring them back to life until the writer submits? Or does something “happen” to us, a sudden ignition of a burning flame? Can the appearance of a muse-like Other bring about a writer’s best work? In Soul at the White Heat, Oates deploys her keenest critical faculties, conjuring contemporary and past voices whose work she deftly and creatively dissects for clues to these elusive questions. Virginia Woolf, John Updike, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, J. M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood, Joan Didion, Zadie Smith, and many others appear as predecessors and peers—material through which Oates sifts in acting as literary detective, philosopher, and student. The book is at its most thrilling when watching the writer herself at work, and Oates provides rare insight into her own process, in candid, self-aware dispatches from the author’s own writing room. The New York Times Book Review has raved, “who better than Joyce Carol Oates … to explicate the craft of writing?” Longtime admirers of Joyce Carol Oates’s novels as well as her prose will discover much to be inspired by and obsess upon themselves in this inventive collection from an American master.

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    Soul at the White Heat by Joyce Carol Oates

    Soul at the White Heat

    15.2 hrs • 9/20/16 • Unabridged
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  2. 3.7 hrs • 7/8/2016 • Unabridged

    You can count on bestselling author Erma Bombeck to show you the funny side of any situation—no matter how ordinary or difficult. In this collection of heartwarming essays, she ponders what it takes to survive the rigors of contemporary living. As Erma shares her worries about the American way of life, she’ll have you chuckling right out loud. You’ll view cherished traditions such as the joys of motherhood, TV game shows, family togetherness, and the overworked phrase “Have a good day!” in a completely different light. So get ready to trade your stale outlook for a hilarious new one. Whether America’s first lady of humor is poking fun at family life or taking a poignant look at the difficulties of aging, you’ll laugh until the tears stream down your face. And with Barbara Rosenblat’s rib-tickling performance, you’ll feel as if you are sharing a cup of coffee with Erma herself.

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  3. 11.8 hrs • 7/5/2016 • Unabridged

    In print for over fifty years, One Man’s Meat continues to delight readers with E. B. White’s witty, succinct observations on daily life at a Maine saltwater farm. Too personal for an almanac, too sophisticated for a domestic history, and too funny and self-doubting for a literary journal, One Man’s Meat can best be described as a primer of a countryman’s lessons and a timeless recounting of experience that will never go out of style.

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    One Man’s Meat by E. B. White

    One Man’s Meat

    Foreword by Roger Angell
    11.8 hrs • 7/5/16 • Unabridged
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  4. 4.3 hrs • 6/23/2016 • Unabridged

    Anyone who has ever loved a book will relish this playful, yet deeply literate collection of essays celebrating the joy of reading. From building castles with books as a child, to the trauma of joining her library with her husband’s, the author reveals, with much warmth and humor, the intimate details of her lifelong affair with books. For Anne Fadiman, books are not built for function, and certainly not for decoration. They are close personal friends who never fail to delight and amaze. Fadiman gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “reading for pleasure” with her lyrical descriptions of the range of emotions evoked by literary experiences. And being read to is one of the greatest pleasures of all, according to Fadiman. You will understand just what she means as you sit back and enjoy Suzanne Toren’s delightful reading.

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    Ex Libris

    4.3 hrs • 6/23/16 • Unabridged
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  5. 7.1 hrs • 6/7/2016 • Unabridged

    A riveting account of the two years literary scholar Mikita Brottman spent reading literature with criminals in a maximum-security men’s prison outside Baltimore, and what she learned from them—Orange Is the New Black meets Reading Lolita in Tehran. On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland. She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe’s story “The Black Cat,” and Nabokov’s Lolita—books that don’t flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may “only” be about literature, but for the prisoners, everything is at stake. Gradually, the inmates open up about their lives and families, their disastrous choices, their guilt and loss. Brottman also discovers that life in prison, while monotonous, is never without incident. The book club members struggle with their assigned reading through solitary confinement; on lockdown; in between factory shifts; in the hospital; and in the middle of the chaos of blasting televisions, incessant chatter, and the constant banging of metal doors. Though The Maximum Security Book Club never loses sight of the moral issues raised in the selected reading, it refuses to back away from the unexpected insights offered by the company of these complex, difficult men. It is a compelling, thoughtful analysis of literature—and prison life—like nothing you’ve ever read before.

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    The Maximum Security Book Club by Mikita Brottman

    The Maximum Security Book Club

    7.1 hrs • 6/7/16 • Unabridged
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  6. 0 reviews 0 5 5 5 out of 5 stars 5/5
    9.9 hrs • 4/26/2016 • Unabridged

    A provocative, deeply moving, and often absurdly funny memoir about how a young woman came to understand love and sexuality through the work of Shakespeare. Jillian Keenan’s childhood was shaped by broken relationships and the manufactured romance of movies and television shows. When it came to understanding love, she had nothing to guide her—until she read A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school, and felt Shakespeare’s language pulsating in her blood for the first time. In Sex with Shakespeare, she tells the story of how the Bard’s plays eventually helped her fathom human relationships and her own sexuality—and find a happy ending of her own. On the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, her passionate, erudite memoir offers a fresh, unusual take on this cultural icon and his work. Keenan uses fourteen of his plays as a springboard to explore the many facets of love and sex—from desire and connection to fetish and addiction. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Keenan unmasks Helena as a sexual masochist—like Jillian herself. In Macbeth, she examines criminalized sexualities and the dark side of “privacy.” The Taming of the Shrew goes inside the secret world of BDSM, and King Lear exposes the ill-fated king as a possible sexual predator. Moving through the canon, it becomes abundantly clear that literature is a conversation, and in Sex with Shakespeare, words are love. Keenan charts her life—and her romances—through the plays, as she wanders the world in search of herself, from northern California to Oman, Spain to Singapore, Washington, DC to Somalia. From Muslim dictatorships to Buddhist republics to disputed territories, she demonstrates Shakespeare’s universality—an entry point to discuss fraught topics such as love, romance, and our most private and public selves.

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    Sex with Shakespeare by Jillian Keenan

    Sex with Shakespeare

    9.9 hrs • 4/26/16 • Unabridged
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  7. 10.6 hrs • 4/1/2016 • Unabridged

    This is a guidebook for Christians who want to learn how to recognize books that are spiritually and aesthetically good—to cultivate good literary taste. Gene Edward Veith presents basic information to help book lovers understand what they read, from the classics to the bestsellers. He explains how the major genres of literature communicate and explores the ways in which comedy, tragedy, realism, and fantasy can portray the Christian worldview. These discussions lead to a host of related topics: the value of fairy tales for children, the tragic and the comic sense of life, the interplay between Greek and Biblical concepts in the imagination, and the new “post-modernism,” a subject of vital importance to Christians. In the pages of this book, readers will meet writers, past and present, who carry on a great literary tradition. By supporting worthy authors, Christians can exert a powerful influence on their culture.

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    Reading between the Lines by Gene Edward Veith Jr.

    Reading between the Lines

    10.6 hrs • 4/1/16 • Unabridged
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  8. 10.3 hrs • 2/2/2016

    A bestselling author and distinguished critic goes back to high school to find out whether books can shape lives It’s no secret that millions of American teenagers, caught up in social media, television, movies, and games, don’t read seriously—they associate sustained reading with duty or work, not with pleasure. This indifference has become a grievous loss to our standing as a great nation—and a personal loss, too, for millions of teenagers who may turn into adults with limited understanding of themselves and the world. Can teenagers be turned on to serious reading? What kind of teachers can do it, and what books? To find out, Denby sat in on a tenth-grade English class in a demanding New York public school for an entire academic year, and made frequent visits to a troubled inner-city public school in New Haven and to a respected public school in Westchester county. He read all the stories, poems, plays, and novels that the kids were reading, and creates an impassioned portrait of charismatic teachers at work, classroom dramas large and small, and fresh and inspiring encounters with the books themselves, including The Scarlet Letter, Brave New World, 1984, Slaughterhouse-Five, Notes from Underground, Long Way Gone and many more. Lit Up is a dramatic narrative that traces awkward and baffled beginnings but also exciting breakthroughs and the emergence of pleasure in reading. In a sea of bad news about education and the fate of the book, Denby reaffirms the power of great teachers and the importance and inspiration of great books.

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    Lit Up

    10.3 hrs • 2/2/16
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  9. 7.2 hrs • 1/26/2016 • Unabridged

    For ten years, Calvin and Hobbes was one the world’s most beloved comic strips. And then, on the last day of 1995, the strip ended. Its mercurial and reclusive creator, Bill Watterson, not only finished the strip but withdrew entirely from public life. In Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, Nevin Martell sets out on a very personal odyssey to understand the life and career of the intensely private man behind Calvin and Hobbes. Martell talks to a wide range of artists and writers (including Dave Barry, Harvey Pekar, and Brad Bird) as well as some of Watterson’s closest friends and professional colleagues, and along the way reflects upon the nature of his own fandom and on the extraordinary legacy that Watterson left behind. This is as close as we’re ever likely to get to one of America’s most ingenious and intriguing figures—and it’s the fascinating story of an intrepid author’s search for him, too.

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    Looking for Calvin and Hobbes

    7.2 hrs • 1/26/16 • Unabridged
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  10. 11.6 hrs • 11/24/2015 • Unabridged

    The death of Christopher Hitchens in December 2011 prematurely silenced a voice that was among the most admired of contemporary writers. For more than forty years, Hitchens delivered to numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic essays that were astonishingly wide-ranging and provocative. The judges for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, posthumously bestowed on Hitchens, praised him for the way he wrote “with fervor about the books and writers he loved and with unbridled venom about ideas and political figures he loathed.” He could write, the judges went on to say, with “undisguised brio, mining the resources of the language as if alert to every possibility of color and inflection.” He was, as Benjamin Schwarz, his editor at the Atlantic magazine, recalled, “slashing and lively, biting and funny—and with a nuanced sensibility and a refined ear that he kept in tune with his encyclopedic knowledge and near photographic memory of English poetry.” And as Michael Dirda, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, observed, Hitchens “was a flail and a scourge, but also a gift to readers everywhere.” The author of five previous volumes of selected writings, including the international bestseller Arguably, Hitchens left at his death nearly 250,000 words of essays not yet published in book form. And Yet… assembles a selection that usefully adds to Hitchens’ oeuvre. It ranges from the literary to the political and is, by turns, a banquet of entertaining and instructive delights, including essays on Orwell, Lermontov, Chesterton, Fleming, Naipaul, Rushdie, Pamuk, and Dickens, among others, as well as his laugh-out-loud self-mocking “makeover.” The range and quality of Hitchens’ essays transcend the particular occasions for which they were originally written. Often prescient, always pugnacious, and formidably learned, Hitchens was a polemicist for the ages. With this posthumous volume, his reputation and his readers will continue to grow. Christopher Hitchens was the cartographer of his own literary and political explorations. He sought assiduously to affirm—and to reaffirm—the ideas of secularism, reason, libertarianism, internationalism, and solidarity, values always under siege and ever in need of defending. Henry James once remarked, “Nothing is my last word on anything.” For Hitchens, as for James, there was always more to be said.

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    And Yet...

    11.6 hrs • 11/24/15 • Unabridged
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  11. 13.5 hrs • 11/9/2015 • Unabridged

    The professional and personal lives of the pioneers of an enduring magazine, the New Yorker From its birth in 1925 to the early days of the Cold War, the New Yorker slowly but surely took hold as the country’s most prestigious, entertaining, and informative general-interest periodical. In Cast of Characters, Thomas Vinciguerra paints a portrait of the magazine’s cadre of charming, wisecracking, driven, troubled, and brilliant, writers and editors. He introduces us to Wolcott Gibbs, theater critic, all-around wit, and author of an infamous 1936 parody of Time magazine. We meet the demanding and eccentric founding editor Harold Ross, who would routinely tell his underlings, “I’m firing you because you are not a genius,” and who once mailed a pair of his underwear to Walter Winchell, who had accused him of preferring to go bare-bottomed under his slacks. Joining the cast are the mercurial, blind James Thurber, a brilliant cartoonist and wildly inventive fabulist; and the enigmatic E. B. White—an incomparable prose stylist and Ross’ favorite son—who married the New Yorker’s formidable fiction editor, Katharine Angell. Then there is the dashing St. Clair McKelway, who was married five times and claimed to have no fewer than twelve personalities, but was nonetheless a superb reporter and managing editor alike. Many of these characters became legends in their own right, but Vinciguerra also shows how, as a group, the New Yorker’s inner circle brought forth a profound transformation in how life was perceived, interpreted, written about, and published in America. Cast of Characters may be the most revealing―and entertaining―book yet about the unique personalities who built what Ross called not a magazine but a “movement.”

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    Cast of Characters by Thomas Vinciguerra

    Cast of Characters

    13.5 hrs • 11/9/15 • Unabridged
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  12. 25.6 hrs • 10/13/2015 • Unabridged

    Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. He was one of Britain’s most important poets, his work infused with myth; a love of nature, conservation, and ecology; fishing; and beasts in brooding landscapes. With an equal gift for poetry and prose, and with a soul as capacious as any poet in history, he was also a prolific children’s writer and has been hailed as the greatest English letter-writer since John Keats. His magnetic personality and insatiable appetite for friendship, love, and life also attracted more scandal than any poet since Lord Byron. His lifelong quest to come to terms with the suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath, is the saddest and most infamous moment in the public history of modern poetry. Hughes left behind a more complete archive of notes and journals than any other major poet, including thousands of pages of drafts, unpublished poems, and memorandum books that make up an almost complete record of Hughes’ inner life, which he preserved for posterity. Renowned scholar Jonathan Bate has spent five years in the Hughes archives, unearthing a wealth of new material. His book offers, for the first time, the full story of Hughes’ life as it was lived, remembered, and reshaped in his art. It is a book that honors, though not uncritically, Hughes’ poetry and the art of life-writing, approached by his biographer with an honesty answerable to Hughes’ own.

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    Ted Hughes

    25.6 hrs • 10/13/15 • Unabridged
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  13. 11.7 hrs • 10/6/2015 • Unabridged

    From the beloved author of The House on Mango Street: a richly illustrated compilation of true stories and nonfiction pieces that, taken together, form a jigsaw autobiography: an intimate album of a literary legend’s life and career.From the Chicago neighborhoods where she grew up and set her groundbreaking The House on Mango Street to her abode in Mexico, in a region where “my ancestors lived for centuries,” the places Sandra Cisneros has lived have provided inspiration for her now-classic works of fiction and poetry. But a house of her own, where she could truly take root, has eluded her. With this collection—spanning nearly three decades, and including never-before-published work—Cisneros has come home at last. Ranging from the private (her parents’ loving and tempestuous marriage) to the political (a rallying cry for one woman’s liberty in Sarajevo) to the literary (a tribute to Marguerite Duras), and written with her trademark sensitivity and honesty, these poignant, unforgettable pieces give us not only her most transformative memories but also a revelation of her artistic and intellectual influences. Here is an exuberant, deeply moving celebration of a life in writing lived to the fullest—an important milestone in a storied career.

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    A House of My Own

    11.7 hrs • 10/6/15 • Unabridged
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  14. 0 reviews 0 5 4.5 4 out of 5 stars 4.5/5
    6.5 hrs • 10/6/2015 • Unabridged

    From the National Book Award–winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.” M Train begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. Through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer’s society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York’s Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft and on artistic creation. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith’s life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith. Braiding despair with hope and consolation, illustrated with her signature Polaroids, M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature, and coffee. It is a powerful, deeply moving book by one of the most remarkable multiplatform artists at work today.

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    M Train

    6.5 hrs • 10/6/15 • Unabridged
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  15. 9.4 hrs • 9/29/2015 • Unabridged

    An insider’s tour through the construction of invented languages from the bestselling author and creator of languages for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the Syfy series Defiance From master language creator David J. Peterson comes a creative guide to language construction for sci-fi and fantasy fans, writers, game creators, and language lovers. Peterson offers a captivating overview of language creation, covering its history from Tolkien’s creations and Klingon to today’s thriving global community of conlangers. He provides the essential tools necessary for inventing and evolving new languages, using examples from a variety of languages including his own creations, punctuated with references to everything from Star Wars to Michael Jackson. Along the way, behind-the-scenes stories lift the curtain on how he built languages like Dothraki for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Shiväisith for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, and an included phrasebook will start fans speaking Peterson’s constructed languages. The Art of Language Invention is an inside look at a fascinating culture and an engaging entry into a flourishing art form—and it might be the most fun you’ll ever have with linguistics.

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    The Art of Language Invention

    9.4 hrs • 9/29/15 • Unabridged
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  16. 5.8 hrs • 9/29/2015 • Unabridged

    A fascinating dialogue on the human desire to make up stories between Nobel Prize–winning author J. M. Coetzee and psychotherapist Arabella Kurtz The Good Story is an exchange between a writer with a long-standing interest in moral psychology and a psychotherapist with training in literary studies. Coetzee and Kurtz consider psychotherapy and its wider social context from different perspectives, but at the heart of both their approaches is a fascination with narrative. Working alone, the writer is in control of the story he or she tells. The therapist, on the other hand, collaborates with the patient in telling the story that might reveal the “truth.” The authors discuss both individual psychology and the psychology of the group: the school classroom, the gang, the settler nation in which the brutal deeds of the ancestors must be accommodated into a national story. In a meeting of the minds that is illuminating, surprising, and thought provoking, Coetzee and Kurtz explore the human capacity for self-examination—our attempts to understand our own individual life stories as well as our part in the larger story through language.

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    The Good Story

    5.8 hrs • 9/29/15 • Unabridged
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