PRINT December 2015


Maggie Nelson

This November, New Directions released The Quarry, a collection of ten essays (some recent, some older classics) by Susan Howe, alongside a new edition of her 1993 work, The Birth-mark: unsettling the wilderness in American literary history. These publications offer a fresh occasion not just to celebrate Howe, who turned seventy-eight this year, but also to read her anew, which is the more formidable and ultimately more rewarding charge. I am repeatedly moved by Howe’s 2010 essay, “The Disappearance Approach,” reproduced in The Quarry—an indelible, snow-muted, wide-ranging, pained account of the 2008 death of her husband, philosopher Peter H. Hare, that moment when he “took eternal wordlessness into himself.” But for personal, writerly reasons, I find The Birth-mark the most powerful to revisit, as it was one of the books that awakened me to the possibility of writing criticism

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