“Some of these stories are closer to my own life than others are, but not one of them is as close as people seem to think.” Alice Murno, from the intro to Moons of Jupiter

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see." Arthur Schopenhauer

“Why does everything you know, and everything you’ve learned, confirm you in what you believed before? Whereas in my case, what I grew up with, and what I thought I believed, is chipped away a little and a little, a fragment then a piece and then a piece more. With every month that passes, the corners are knocked off the certainties of this world: and the next world too. Show me where it says, in the Bible, ‘Purgatory.’ Show me where it says ‘relics, monks, nuns.’ Show me where it says ‘Pope.’” –Thomas Cromwell imagines asking Thomas More—Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

My favorite posts to get started: The Self-Righteousness Instinct, Sabbath Says, Encounters, Inc., and What Makes "Wolf Hall" so Great?.

Cog/Evo Lit Theory


The Creepy King Effect: Why We Can't Help Confusing Writers with Their Characters



The Rowling Effect: The Uses and Abuses of Storytelling in Literary Fiction





How Violent Fiction Works: Rohan Wilson’s “The Roving Party” and James Wood’s Sanguinary Sublime from Conrad to McCarthy









Rebecca Mead’s Middlemarch Pilgrimage and the 3 Wrong Ways to Read a Novel




The Time for Tales and A Tale for the Time Being







Lab Flies: Joshua Greene's Moral Tribes and the Contamination of Walter White








Muddling through "Life after Life": Reflections on Plot and Character in Kate Atkinson's New Novel









Let's Play Kill Your Brother: Fiction as a Moral Dilemma Game










The Imp of the Underground and the Literature of Low Status 









Sympathizing with Psychos: Why We Want to See Alex Escape His Fate as a Clockwork Orange









Stories, Social Proof, & Our Two Selves











Why Shakespeare Nauseated Darwin: A Review of Keith Oatley's "Such Stuff as Dreams"











How to be Interesting: Dead Poets and Causal Inferences












What's the Point of Difficult Reading?












The Storytelling Animal: A Light Read with Weighty Implications











Madness and Bliss: Critical vs Primitive Readings in A.S. Byatt's "Possession: A Romance"










Who Needs Complex Narratives?: Tim Parks' Enlightened Cynicism








Hunger Game Theory: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction and the Rebirth of Humanity







Life's White Machine: James Wood and What Doesn't Happen in Fiction






The Adaptive Appeal of Bad Boys







T.J. Eckleburg Sees Everything: The Great God-Gap in Gatsby









Art as Altruism: Lily Briscoe and the Ghost of Mrs. Ramsay in "To the Lighthouse"









Difficult Reading in the Age of Narcissism








They Comes a Day: Celebrating Cooperation in "A Gathering of Old Men" and "Horton Hears a Who!" My Kozicki Award-winning essay.







Getting Gabriel Wrong: Lacanian Misreadings of Joyce's "The Dead"









Absurdities and Atrocities in Literary Criticism









Poststructuralism: Banal when It's not Busy Being Absurd










The Cost of Denying the Abyss: Signals of Selfishness and Altruism in Mann's "Death in Venice"

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