Recipe: Perfect Lunchbox “Cheese” Crackers

My daughter loves cheese crackers. This recipe is super simple and it’s incredibly fool-proof.  The crackers are “cheesy”-tasting and just crunchy enough. They stick together well and travel in a lunchbox nicely. Ingredients: A flax egg (1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tablespoons water, left to sit for 5 minutes)1 3/4 cup superfine almond flour4-5 […]

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Poem: Grendles Modor

I am so happy to announce that a poem that I wrote entitled “Grendles Modor” has been published in Danse Macabre Journal’s “DM Du Jour.” I wrote the poem when I was an undergraduate back in 1998 when I read Beowulf for the first time. Two years ago (in 2018) I went back and edited […]

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Planet Eerst: December 2020

Have you heard? Now you can loop into the Eerst Constellations! Welcome to Planet Eerst, a monthly newsletter with insider details about the writing of The Book of Eerst, a nine-book series by me, Elan Avery. Every writer needs readers, so feel free to support my writing on Patreon if you like what you see […]

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Writing for Myself

During the pandemic I have been homeschooling my child, also while working teaching various literature courses at three different colleges. While public school was still a thing, and even during the summer when my child was home, I was able to manage a groove of writing for pleasure. Sometimes that looked like stealing ten minutes […]

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Poem: I am now Binge Eating

I am a few months late here with this announcement, but I had the poem “I am Now Binge Eating” published in Rogue Agent‘s issue 65. The poem articulates the feelings of overeating and the sensations of food addiction. I wrote it to try to encapsulate these emotions while bingeing. You can find the poem […]

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Recipe: Vegan Broccoli Alfredo with Melted Leeks and Peppers

The change of season in Massachusetts from winter to spring has been chaotic, as usual, and my family has been craving creamy, warm dishes. By request this week I put together a vegan version of a pasta alfredo, using some colors to make it festive. It was a quick and easy dish with a high […]

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A Contemporary Allegory: Two Apache Sisters

Dina Polizzi’s first novella Two Apache Sisters and a Texas Gigolo was on my read-list for awhile, not only because Polizzi is my friend and neighbor but due to its marriage of magic, tarot, and its esoteric nature, which all interest me.

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The Fixed Period: A Time Without Violins

Brace yourself.  Try to imagine a world in which the violin has become “nearly obsolete.” I know, right?!  You’ve nearly fallen to your knees, begging for mercy, asking yourself why. Why, great creator, did humanity ever get to this point? I am a big fan of the violin.  I am learning to play it at almost 40 […]

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Masculinity in The Eye of the World

Masculinity is expected to be presented and challenged in traditional epic tales. Texts that include epic journeys of their protagonists, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and The Bible, capture challenges that call into question man’s courage, strength, intelligence, love, dedication, and more.  I mean, just look at Odysseus here, rendered helpless, with the sirens encroaching: So […]

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Living in Henry James’s Other House

An affluent womanizer, Tony Bream.  The nicest, sweetest girl, Jean Martle.  A desperate lover abroad too long in China, Dennis Vidal.  The odd Rose Arminger. They all seem like characters from the famed game Clue.  Who was the murderer of the little girl Effie Bream; who held this child’s delicate body under the water until […]

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Poem: Arrhythmia

I had a poem published in Aberration Labyrinth. I wrote “Arrhythmia” in 2011 when I was felt really depleted. I was recovering from some adrenal fatigue and had made a lot of changes in my life concerning my energy output. I was also reflecting upon my stillbirth from 2001; she had died from a hole […]

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The Littlest Demon: Pedophilia in The Little Demon

The theatrical nature and content of Sologub’s The Little Demon had me envisioning a play on the stage for the first third of the novel.  Hilarious dialogue, telling imagery, and one of the most paranoid and depraved characters in fiction made visualizing this text taking place physically before me easy.  For much of this novel, […]

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The Missing Touch: Rizal’s Immaterial Hero

When I picked up a novel with a stunning title like Noli Me Tangere (Touch me Not) (Filipino, 1887), I expected to encounter a work dredged in corporeal, visceral experience and language.  I wanted a novel centered on the function of touch: human interaction, physicality, phenomenology, flesh.  I didn’t get this in Jose Rizal’s incredible […]

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The Greatest Darkness in Sanshiro

Sanshiro by Natsume Soseki is a novel about Japanese masculinity in which Sanshiro, our hero, comes to terms with his role as a college-educated man from the country.  Sanshiro is a Modern(ist) hero who develops a heightened sense of self-consciousness as a result of the industrialized and urbane environment of higher education in the city, a confusing […]

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Heroics in the Arctic with Satan

The motif of arctic exploration is not unique during the Romantic period in which many authors, such as Mary Shelley and Coleridge, utilize the setting of a sub-zero climate and its  dangers to highlight the macabre and mysterious nature of their plots and characters. In Wilkie Collins’s short story “The Devil’s Spectacles” the artic setting […]

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The Drought: A Woman’s Plague

Timelessness is the cure for a 10 year drought in Ballard’s novel The Drought (British, 1964), in which Dr. Charles Ransom learns how to navigate the desolate new landscape that surrounds him.  Around him people change into picaresque, circus-like versions of their previous selves: they morph into who they truly are.  For some characters, such […]

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I Can’t Forgive Alice Vavasor

Victorians were skeptical, to say the least, of forgiveness.  The process seemed destabilizing at best, insincere at its worst.  Forgiveness never really leaves the map of the Victorian literary landscape and yet authors attempt to push it to the margin.  Dismissing forgiveness as impossible or undesirable appears to be an unrealistic a goal in many of […]

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The Last Man in Shelley’s Prolonged Apocalypse

One overlooked end-of-the-world text is Mary Shelley’s novel The Last Man (British, 1826) in which a plague invades Europe and, eventually, the world.  This repetitive, cyclical text feels even longer than Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and yet less events occur to move the plot forward.  Shelley’s vision of the end of times is vastly […]

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The Devil in Gogol’s Portrait

I have been enjoying — very much — reading a variety of works about portraiture (but who has time with a newborn baby?!).  My intention has been to write a series of posts about this theme in literature. While reading, however, I wanted to pause and address a thread from a past series of mine: […]

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Murder Fantasies in Male Fiction

I didn’t intend to read book after book in which men fantasize about murdering or torturing women but this is exactly the kind of ride I’ve been on just by undertaking reading some random twentieth century fiction.  This month I read four novels that seemed to be connected to each other through the trope of […]

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Ruth Hall and Homeopathy

Ruth Hall (British, 1854) is, as its author Fanny Fern is careful to note, a “continuous story” rather than a novel.  It is a work marked by a few covert postmodern gestures such as its vignette style, fragmented narrative, and its layers of subjectivity.  At its core Ruth Hall takes up the popular nineteenth-century question of […]

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Bleak House and Excrement

Freud’s claim that excrement is ailment makes a tidy frame for the familiar portrait of Victorian London, or what Dickens in Bleak House calls a “filthy wilderness.” Excrement, defined in the OED as “that which remains after a process of sifting or refining,” emerges from a laborious and sometimes painful process of internalization and elimination […]

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Mysticism in Woolf’s The Waves

Virginia Woolf perhaps does, as Walter Allen suggests, look to art to make order from chaos, substituting art for religion with the “mystic’s intuition.” Allen bestows Woolf with the agency of a mystic, assuming that intrinsic intuition is the medium from which her art is wrought. Definitively, a mystical visionary strives to bring the human […]

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The Hunger Games: Starving for Love

My students this semester have been really open to the exchange of literature. Every week I await the handing-over of a new favorite book from a student as we make an exchange of books. Most recently, I have read the first book of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games (American, 2008-2010) trilogy, which is timely since […]

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The “Art of Pushing His Brutal Point:’ Fanny Hill and the Futurists

Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (British, 1748) could be the anthem novel for the early twentieth-century movement inspired by Filippo Marinetti except Cleland’s work predates Futurism by nearly two centuries.Taken out of historical context, Cleland and Marinetti seem contemporaries in their metaphysical treatment of pleasure and pain. Futurists, in their romanticization of […]

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Balzac’s Pygmalion in The Unknown Masterpiece

Either the picture portrays the core of a man or it is not a picture. – William Carlos Williams, A Recognizable Image In the “The UnKnown Masterpiece” (French, 1831) Balzac takes up the age-old debate about where nature ends and art begins.  He does so, not surprisingly, through the most classic medium: the nude female […]

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The Master and Margarita: The Devil is Woman Unless She Isn’t

After much effort I finally finished Mikail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (Russian, 1967), which a student recommended to me years ago when she heard that I was interested in exploring how and why the “devil” becomes female in literature.  This, my seventh installment, presents what may seem at first a challenge to the rule that […]

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Song in The Lord of the Rings

Tolkien’s epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is a musical. This was the second trait that jumped out at me during my first reading of this beloved fantasy novel.  I was startled by the important role that music, singing, and song played in each segment, how integral was the improvisational song as well […]

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Emma Courtney’s Memoirs of Stalking

Mary Hays is an eighteenth-century author obsessed with proving that she — like her romantic contemporaries — can use highfaluting language as an argument for virtue: her own virtue. Memoirs of Emma Courtney (British, 1796) is not an easy read although it is short, but the pay-offs are big. My jaw was hanging down to […]

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The Color of Sickness in The Innocence of the Devil

I waited a long time to get my hands on Nawal El Saadawi’s novel The Innocence of the Devil (Egyptian, 1994),  I was interested in reading a novel by a contemporary Arab feminist/doctor/writer, and I also thought that this novel would be a nice addition to my exploration of the devil in literature.  This review […]

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God’s Plot and Schizophrenia

Thomas Shepard’s autobiography in God’s Plot (American, 16th century, transcribed by Michael McGiffert) reveals his personal struggle with cognition in a world in which positive/negative, good/evil can not peaceably coexist. As an authority figure for Puritan doctrine Shepard purposefully constructs his autobiography to reflect the enlightened path of the ecclesiastically elite; it speaks to divine […]

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True Names in Earthsea

When I came to literature as a profession I did so because I fell in love with words at a young age.  Not necessarily the big words, not the dictionary or the thesaurus.  I fell in love, really, with how the simple words could cause so much pain or intense pleasure. This, I saw all […]

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The Devil Wears Nada

“Um,” says Andrea Sachs, that boring and undeveloped accessory of the “devil,” Miranda Priestly who is the editor of Runway fashion magazine.  “Um,” Sachs repeats as prominent literary people insist how eloquent she is.  “Um,” shouts Andrea Sachs as I turn another page in a novel that appears to have very little to do with […]

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The Best Wound in Trollope’s Lady Anna

When I was an undergraduate with an interest in studying Victorian literature, a professor once asked me how much Trollope I had read.  I scratched my head: Trollope?  Never heard of him. The professor explained that Anthony Trollope used to be the backbone of nineteenth-century literature courses, so I, of course, made Trollope the focus […]

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Missing Children in the Four-Gated City

Finally, I have read my first Doris Lessing novel.  I admit, it may not have been the best one to wet my feet.  The Four-Gated City (British, 1969) is the final book of a five-book series called the “Children of Violence.”  I didn’t read the first four but only the last.  I felt as if I […]

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The Sorrows of Satan: When Sorrow is Power

That I have named this very blog after Marie Corelli — and her “electric creed” in the novel A Romance of Two Worlds — speaks to a fact that I don’t really need to reveal: I am in love with Marie Corelli. The pleasure that reading her books brings me is one that can only […]

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William Blake’s Songs of Searching

William Blake, in many ways, polarizes innocence and experience in his book of poems Songs of Innocence and of Experience.  His exploration of these are literally separated by a frontispiece and title page.  Moreover, he marks the primary differences between innocence and experience by showing the evolution of poems — “Infant Joy” in the first […]

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Jane Eyre Does Not Cry

A couple days ago I took some students in my class to see the latest cinematic attempt to bring Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre to the public. At the opening scene of Cary Fukunaga’s film my heart sank down into my heels and then, from there, I only stomped the ground with a red […]

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Emotion in Death in Venice

When I was called out for teaching some provocative contexts in my “Strange Children” course this quarter, my supervisor came to my defense by saying, “Well, it’s not like you’re teaching Death in Venice, or anything.” I had heard of Thomas Mann’s novella — and really enjoyed reading the obscure The Transposed Heads, which I […]

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Cassandra and Women’s Labor

Victorians wrote love stories about work.  Labor was the answer to almost every question. Carlyle’s hero in Sartor Resartus cries, “Produce!  Produce! […] Work while it is called To-day; for the Night cometh, wherein no man can work.” For Victorian authors and artists, work is either placed on a pedestal as an emblem of progress, […]

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The Backlands, Where Love is War

Joao Guimaraes Rosa’s 1956 novel Grande Sertao: Veradas (Translated in English by James L. Taylor and Harriet De Onis as The Devil to Pay in the Backlands) brought me back to my The Devil is a Woman series, from which I have taken a small break. The Devil to Pay is the first Brazilian novel […]

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Anne of Green Gables after a Decade

My childhood friends must grimace and wince when they hear “Anne of Green Gables.”  During sleepovers I would make them watch all eight hours of the PBS miniseries that was based on Lucy Montgomery’s very long fiction works. The first time that I watched it, I was in love.  With everything.  Anne.  Prince Edward Island.  […]

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Of Girls and Meat: The Art of Mark Ryden

Today one of my soon-to-be students for my Spring quarter course called “Strange Children” mentioned that the course description reminded her of Mark Ryden‘s art.  I, of course, looked into his work directly. Indeed, Ryden’s oeuvre is almost entirely dedicated to depictions of children  — mostly prepubescent girls — and nature.  The children are grotesque […]

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The Nameless Dread in American Psycho

If Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (American, 1991) doesn’t actually sadistically kill numerous women,  children, and maybe a few men, then this novel is possibly the saddest story ever told. Many years ago I watched Christian Bale play Bateman in the film American Pscyho but for some reason while I do remember the […]

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William Hazlitt’s Pleasures of Hating

William Hazlitt is notorious for writing criticism that doesn’t hold back.  A kind of rogue who received a large number of threats for his blatant opinions concerning authorship and culture, Hazlitt ruminated about the darker aspects of human experience. In his best-known work, The Spirit of the Age (British, 1825), he appears more tame than in […]

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Marie Corelli’s Electric Creed

Marie Corelli is one of the most undervalued Victorian authors, yet she was as prolific — and as popular — as Dickens in her own time. Her novels drip with supernaturalism, mesmerism, and science fiction: they’re exciting and bizarre.  Novels such as Ardath: A Story of a Dead Self, The Sorrows of Satan, or Wormwood […]

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