Clare Beams, The Illness Lesson

The Illness Lesson is a quiet, eerie novel about a women’s school gone awry in nineteenth-century New England. Caroline is the adult daughter of Samuel Hood, an essayist and educator whose work has attracted some devotees, including David, a former soldier and Caroline’s crush, who comes to live with the Hoods and teach at their … Continue reading Clare Beams, The Illness Lesson

Elisabeth Thomas, Catherine House

Elisabeth Thomas, Catherine House (New York: Custom House, 2020) I’ve been a fan of campus novels ever since I discovered John Williams’s Stoner back in 2014, and over the years I’ve devoured a few of them: Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, Julie Schumacher’s The Shakespeare Requirement, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Elisabeth Thomas’s Catherine House, like … Continue reading Elisabeth Thomas, Catherine House

Sara Sligar, Take Me Apart

Archival obsession meets the #MeToo movement in this thoughtful debut. The novel follows an ex-journalist, Kate Aitken, as she creates an archive from the work of a famous photographer, Miranda Brand, who died in Callinas, California in mysterious circumstances. Kate’s own path to this work also unfolds in mysterious circumstances. We learn that she is … Continue reading Sara Sligar, Take Me Apart

Mary Kay McBrayer, America’s First Female Serial Killer

America’s first female serial killer was a poor Irish nurse named Honora Kelley, later known as Jane Toppan. She poisoned at least thirty-one victims in Victorian-era Boston.  If that comes as a surprise to you, you’re in good company. As Mary Kay McBrayer writes, notorious murderers like Jack the Ripper and Lizzie Borden have been studied in … Continue reading Mary Kay McBrayer, America’s First Female Serial Killer


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About Me

I’m a literary critic, fiction writer, union officer, and Associate Professor of English. I wrote a novel, The Quelling (Lanternfish, 2018), and an academic monograph, Science, Language, and Reform in Victorian Poetry (Routledge, 2019). My interests include feminist and Gothic literature, literary theory, radical pedagogy, and the environmental humanities. I blog about books, writing, and random ephemera.

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