Book of the Month: Little Weirds by Jenny Slate (2019) Critical Evaluation The only piece of fiction in Jenny Slate’s new book, “Little Weirds,” describes a love that grew old in an un-air-conditioned house by the Atlantic Ocean. “I was trying to say goodbye to my ex-husband, who is an important person in my life and a friend,” the actress and comedian said of the story, “I Died: Bronze Tree.” After her divorce from the director Dean Fleischer-Camp in 2016, she heard that sometimes, as a healing exercise, trauma survivors reimagine painful experiences. “I decided to [...]
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So far Cate Mahoney has created 26 blog entries.
So You Want to Write a Dissertation? by Cate Mahoney First of all, WOW, it’s going to be a long road. But you can do it! So many people have! For full disclosure, I’m writing a dissertation for the humanities, English literature specifically. My specialty is poetry, and I range from around the 1830s-1960s in the U.S. I’m hoping, though, that my advice can pertain to all fields. Before you write a dissertation, you need to write what’s called a dissertation prospectus. As the name suggests, the prospectus maps out what shape you think the dissertation [...]
Book of the Month: How We Fight for Our Lives (2019) by Saeed Jones Critical Evaluation How We Fight for Our Lives is a new memoir by Saeed Jones, an award-winning poet and a former BuzzFeed editor, who grew up black, gay, and Southern in the nineties and early two-thousands. The title previews the book’s tone and also its content: urgent, immediate, matter of fact. Jones writes of his mother and her heart condition, and of physical assault, economic hardship, and the floating threat of violence that men like him face. His title carries an edge of social critique. [...]
On Apostrophe by Cate Mahoney O Wisdom, grant me the ability to share information with my Princeton Writes peers about the figure of speech “apostrophe.” O Courage, put a steady hand on my back to let the breath in and keep my fingers a-typing. That, my fine friends, with its telltale invocations, was an example of apostrophe. Did you find it slightly embarrassing? Well, the literary critic Jonathan Culler thinks it probably was, as apostrophe now seems archaic because of its performative aspect. It was originally used by the ancients when stories were heard aurally and always had a waiting [...]
Book of the Month: Milkman (2018) by Anna Burns Critical Evaluation In an unnamed town and in an unnamed country, our narrator, the Middle Sister, is doing the best she can to contend — to contend with other people’s desires and wants for her life. Young women don’t culturally belong only to themselves, even if they want, but are subject still to the desires of their parents, families, boyfriends, older siblings, friends, churches and communities. They want her to stop walking around town with her nose in a book, to which she asks, “Are you saying it’s okay [...]
Symposium Debrief by Cate Mahoney On Thursday, May 2, and Friday, May 3, Princeton Writes saw the exciting culmination of many months of planning: its first annual symposium on the written and spoken word. Connect: Harnessing the Power of Words drew a rousing number of participants from across the University, and we thank you so much for making this event such a success. We enjoyed every step of this process, and we’re already thinking ahead to the next one! (Princeton Writes 2020!) As Princeton Writes' UAF (University Administrative Fellow), I’ll play crack reporter and give everyone a debrief on our two [...]
Critical Evaluation "Juno’s Swans by Tamsen Wolff is not a traditional queer “first love” novel. It’s not a story about becoming and it doesn’t contain bromides about the magic of new love. What it offers instead is a story about the limits of love: both the crash at the end of a first love, and the tunnel vision infatuation can give, the kind where everything outside that adoring gaze becomes flattened. Juno’s Swans gives us Nina, a high school senior washed ashore from a summer in Cape Cod in which she went to an acting residency, fell madly in love with Sarah, and [...]
Avoiding Jargon at All Costs by Cate Mahoney Jargon. We all know it when we see it. And by that I mean we wonder what in tarnation the writer is talking about, why they made us see it, and what they want us to do with it. Jargon can be found in every field, but I know about it best in academia. Written or spoken, jargon complicates the whole point of discourse, which is to communicate, to share information. When I first entered my graduate program and was in class with people in the year above me, some of them [...]
Critical Evaluation "Here is the seventh collection of essays by John McPhee, his 33rd book and perhaps his eleventy-billionth word of published prose. This far into a prolific career, it may be a good time to finally unmask the 87-year-old as a one-trick pony. In 'The Patch,' he again shamelessly employs his go-to strategy: crafting sentences so energetic and structurally sound that he can introduce apparently unappealing subjects, even ones that look to be encased in a cruddy veneer of boringness, and persuade us to care about them. He’s been working this angle since the 1950s; it’s a good thing we’re [...]
On Roland Barthes and Writing Letters to Our Beloveds by Cate Mahoney Most letters aren't worth reading more than once or twice, but love letters invite us to read and reread not just the text but ourselves and others. There is, of course, more to any letter than meets the eye, as many a writer has attested: “A Letter always feels to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend. Indebted in our talk to attitude and accent, there seems a spectral power in thought that walks alone." - Emily Dickinson, letter #330 “I might be [...]