Amanda Claybaugh

Amanda Claybaugh teaches in the department of English and comparative literature at Columbia.

Life and Death Stuff: Claire Messud

Amanda Claybaugh, 19 October 2006

The Emperor’s Children is an expansive novel, with multiple plots recounted from multiple perspectives, but it circles around three friends who met more than a decade before at Brown. Like most graduates of America’s elite colleges, they are filled with a sense of their own promise. But now that they have turned 30 they are beginning to see that promise might not be enough. The...

He could not cable: Realism v. Naturalism

Amanda Claybaugh, 20 July 2006

When Frank Norris died of appendicitis in 1902, at the age of 32, he had written six novels, as well as scores of essays and reviews. At least two of the novels, McTeague (1899) and The Octopus (1901), are recognised masterpieces, and a number of the essays, particularly those about the Spanish-American War, retain their power today. Norris’s life, on the other hand, was distinguished...

Forty Acres and a Mule: E.L. Doctorow

Amanda Claybaugh, 26 January 2006

In his historical novels, E.L. Doctorow has written about ragtime and the Rosenbergs, about mobsters and world fairs. His most recent novel deals with one of the most fraught subjects in US history: the long march of General William Tecumseh Sherman in the final months of the Civil War. The election of 1864 was a referendum on whether the Union should fight to achieve total victory or seek a...

At the end of his life, with his reputation already waning, William Dean Howells remarked that he would be remembered for the quantity of his writing, if not for its quality. He had published a hundred books: plays and poetry collections, memoirs and travel essays, novels and novellas. The plays are mostly undistinguished, the non-fiction writings good on the whole, the novels sharply divided...

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