By Spencer Grayson

Review: Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez’s new novel begins with verse, not prose, in a prologue titled “Broken English.” Her narrator Antonia Vega recalls the death of her husband in a car accident a year ago: “she keeps asking / Where are you? / as this is the only way she knows / Can you help me find him? / how to create an afterlife for him.” The prologue’s title points to the racism that Antonia, a Dominican-American literature professor in rural Vermont, faces as she “teach[es] Americans their own language.” But it also depicts poetry, with its line breaks and often unpredictable rhythms,…

Reading Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree

Midterms season is probably not the best time to read an 848-page novel pertaining in no way to your exams, but the mind has curious ways of reorienting your priorities at the exact moment you most need them to remain resolute. That is the briefest explanation of how I came to read The Priory of…

The Tyranny of Memory: Yanagihara in Amsterdam

Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 novel A Little Life can be briefly summarized as the story of four college roommates, their enduring friendship and soaring careers, but it is so much more than a big-city Bildungsroman. About 100 pages in to the book’s 720, Jude St. Francis, the most reserved member of the group, recalls the first of his “episodes,” bouts of physical agony that continue for the rest of his life: …the pain had been so awful—unbearable, almost, as if someone had reached in and grabbed his spine like a snake and was trying to loose it from its bundles of nerves…