August in Open Letters Monthly — and an Interview

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Once again it’s a new month and so we’ve got our new issue up. One neat new thing is the graphic “slider” at the top of the site, which showcases a range of pieces from the magazine (and which will also include new blog posts and highlights from Open Letters Weekly). We think this adds a bit of dynamism to the front page and we hope it will help visitors to the site spot things they’re interested in reading easily — though scrolling down the page to see the full Table of Contents and links to recent posts remains the best way not to miss anything.

MaryBarton-195x300As always, I think there are a lot of pieces well worth your time. Favorites of mine include Jessica Miller‘s smart and probing review of Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex; Dorian Stuber‘s thorough piece — as much essay as review — on Bernard Wasserstein’s The Ambiguity of Virtue (about Gertrude van Tijn, whose work with the Jewish Council during WWII helped over 20,000 Jews escape the Holocaust but also involved her to a vexing degree in what some have seen as collaboration with the Nazis); Elisa Gabbert’s typically sharp critique of Ben Lerner’s regressively metafictional 10:04; and our collective feature on ‘minor’ works by major writers from Shakespeare to Muriel Spark. My contribution to this list is Gaskell’s Mary Barton; as I say there, in its day there was nothing obscure about Mary Barton, but thanks to Masterpiece Theater, today it’s North and South and Cranford that most people know, and I’d guess (though this may just be me) that these are also taught more often than Mary Barton.

I thought I’d also mention here, for those of you who might have missed it, that writer and editor Matt Jakubowski interviewed me for a series he’s beginning on the role of critics and criticism. We did the interview by email and then he cut and tidied my long responses into a single rather more manageable and coherent piece. I really appreciated his thoughtful questions; it was useful to me to look at my trajectory in the way his inquiries prompted me to, and also his interest in my critical work and approach was encouraging in a way I hadn’t quite expected — the internet is a big place and it’s easy to feel a bit lost in the crowd, so knowing that someone like Matt cared enough to single me out for a chat was a real boost. I’m looking forward to seeing his other interviews as they appear.