Blog Profile / Slate: Books

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Archived Since:July 14, 2009

Blog Post Archive

Savage Love

Among all the charming stories in Shirley Jackson’s two charming midcentury memoirs of raising four charming children in the charming town of Bennington, Vermont, the one that I urge anyone who might ever want to write about his family to study like the Talmud is about a boy called Charles. Show More Summary

After Life After Life

Kate Atkinson’s best-selling 2013 novel Life After Life was a high-concept metafiction that repeatedly killed off its main character, Ursula Todd, only to resurrect her. Its new “companion” book, A God in Ruins, eschews that conceit: Characters live once, and die for good. Show More Summary

An Everyday Transcendence

Tracy K. Smith’s new memoir, Ordinary Light, is aptly named. Many of the recollections rendered in it are deceptively simple. In early chapters, Smith recalls being kicked by a calf when she was 4. “I felt betrayed, stunned by this first...Show More Summary

Coming Home

Many readers know what it’s like to feel out of place. But not everyone understands the emotional tug-of-war of the expatriate: A person who has worked to make a place for herself in a new land, while never quite losing the connection to her old home. Show More Summary

The Discreet Charm of the Paperie

It takes a confident writer to begin a book with a long discussion of the evolution of paper clips, push pins, and binder fasteners before even touching on sexier subjects like glue, sticky tape, and pencil erasers. Fortunately, James...Show More Summary


Kim Kardashian has been taking selfies since 1984. That was the year she first immortalized her own face in an admiring close-up—round cheeks filling the frame, flash shining in her toddler eyes like a premonition. Some other baby Kardashian wails beside her, unmoved by the photo op, but Kim confronts the camera head-on. Show More Summary

Werner Herzog Takes a Walk

In the late fall of 1974, the director Werner Herzog got a telephone call with the news that his friend and mentor, the German film critic Lotte Eisner, was dying. Herzog’s reaction was characteristically extreme: “Our Eisner mustn’t die, she will not die, I won’t permit it,” he wrote at the time. Show More Summary

Joshua Levin Is a Gangly Nebbish

Joshua Levin is not David Justice or Steve Austin or The Rock. It is not a name that conveys strength or courage or any other quality associated with rough-hewn masculinity. It is the name of a nebbish, a man who spends his days staring at a laptop screen and whose work output is, at best, one non-atrocious phrase per day. Show More Summary

“And People?”

Last year, when my daughter Eliza was 3, we went to stay with my in-laws for a week. About two hours into our stay, we discovered that we had neglected to bring enough books. (For her, that is; I had brought three for myself and didn’t...Show More Summary

Losing Control of the Language

About halfway through I’m Very Into You, a collection of the 1995–96 correspondence between the writers Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark, Acker writes, “Life’s too short not to be lived as fully as possible. Wonder what’ll happen next?” In Acker’s case, a few months later, the cancer she thought she had beaten would return. Show More Summary

The Winners of the Cartoonist Studio Prize

The Slate Book Review and the Center for Cartoon Studies are proud to announce the winners of the third annual Cartoonist Studio Prize. The winners were selected by Slate Book Review editor Dan Kois; the faculty and students at the Center...Show More Summary

Into the Empty Regions

Do you ever just want to quote someone forever? Reading Clive James’ Poetry Notebook: Reflections on the Intensity of Language, struggling to find ways to talk about it, I dreamed of Echo, the nymph of Greek myth, who spoke truth by repeating the true words of others. Show More Summary


Years later, I still think about the limited-run comics adventure I Kill Giants, which debuted in 2008 from Image. The odd and fantastical story of Barbara Thorson, a misfit fifth-grader who sees fairies in her classroom, monsters in...Show More Summary

The Civil War After the Civil War

For most history buffs, the Civil War’s sesquicentennial ends on Thursday. That day in 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox. Most historians, though, acknowledge that the war’s most ambitious aim—full equality for black citizens—took many more years to accomplish, and even continues. Show More Summary

Unhappy Families

In the great debate over protagonist likability, I have always fallen firmly on the side of defending the pleasures of indefensible characters. Bring on the prickly, the strange, the cruel, the self-destructive! I don’t read books to make friends. But Hausfrau, the debut novel by poet Jill Alexander Essbaum, challenged my stance on the issue. Show More Summary

The Corrections

I became a copy editor by accident four years ago. I saw a tweet (accidentally posted, I would later find out) advertising a part-time copy editing position at Slate. I hadn’t thought of myself for such a role previously; a poor speller,...Show More Summary

“They Didn’t Know Anything”

The most important thing to understand for a listener new to “modern” art music—the thing I’m always trying to impress upon those patient souls who let me drag them to such concerts—is the need to shift their paradigm of judgment from beautiful/ugly to interesting/boring. Show More Summary

The Exoskeleton and the Blues

The book the book the book the book the book. The moment talk of poetry turns institutional, it’s all about the book. The reviews of poetry in the places that still cover it—the New York Times, say, or Slate—deal exclusively with books. Show More Summary

After Outrage

Some people are doomed to live as Internet footnotes. They’re reduced to Google trails of ferocious commentary and invective that age poorly but never disappear. Here all fame is infamy, but if it can’t be escaped, maybe it can be monetized—cheaply, fleetingly. Show More Summary

Literary Crush

The act of reading is always an expression of desire. Whether we read when we are alone or read in order to be alone, we do so in search of contact and communion—with an author, with a story, with something silent in ourselves. Above all else, we long for recognition, long to be seen and understood, long for the one thing a book can never offer us. Show More Summary

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