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The Professor and Other Writings Hardcover – January 19, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Cultural scholar and essayist Castle (The Literature of Lesbianism) puts her keen analytical powers and droll wit to fine use in her latest collection of autobiographical essays. Written between 2002 and 2009, Castle's seven pieces are wildly diverse in subject matter, including a rumination on controversial jazz virtuoso Art Pepper and an obituary of late leftist icon Susan Sontag. Castle's voice shines as she repeatedly peels back layers of assumptions to reveal thought-provoking, often funny and sometimes moving observations: an essay about Castle's obsessive interest in WWI becomes a thoughtful meditation on feminine courage, both horrifying and amusing (often in a single paragraph); a seemingly-banal piece about home interior magazines becomes an astute examination of the personal struggle for security in the post-9/11 world. Obscure references and a predictably academic approach never let readers forget they're dealing with a professional scholar, but Castle's fierce wit and self-deprecating style keep her text from becoming stilted, proving that "entertaining" and "high-minded" needn't be mutually exclusive.
“[A] hilarious and smart collection of personal essays. . . . The subjects are fascinating, the prose packed full of gems. Castle approaches everything with a blend of curiosity, humor and careful scrutiny. . . . This is a delightful book, to be read and reread.” (New York Times Book Review)
“…every page hums with a kind of cathartic glee -- a testimony to Castle’s ability to transform even the grimmest scenarios into savage comic prose…The Professor and Other Writings documents a brilliant mind discovering a deeper, more intimate mode of expression.” (Salon.com)
“In this questing, deeply funny and joltingly wonderful book...the life of the author’s abundant mind and heart are explored in an altogether scintillating way. Readers...are in for a major find. . . . Castle is at once penetratingly keen and unfailingly good company.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Terry Castle is an irreverent, witty feminist – words one does not often associate. Her tale of her love affair as a student with an older professor is touching and wicked; she is a brilliant stylist, and everything she writes is gripping.” (Edmund White)
“This is the book we Terry Castle fans have been waiting for, and those new to her work are in for a revelation – a brain-goosing, entertaining blast.” (James Wolcott, contributing writer to Vanity Fair)
“Critic and cultural commentator Castle delivers a vibrant series of essays on art, travel and the personal relationships in her life. . . . She deftly uses her personal experience to illuminate an array of other subjects. . . . A sharply written, deeply personal collection.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“This new collection’s savage wit and honesty should only bolster her popularity and garner her a whole slew of new readers. . . . A worthy read for anyone who enjoys a good think. . . . It will attract even those who usually steer away from “literary” essays.” (Library Journal)
“Terrific...a blast of hilarity, candor, trenchance and literary grace… There is a voice here that is wildly entertaining, totally compelling and not really quite like any other you’re likely to have read.” (Editor’s Choice) (Buffalo News)
“Castle is a master stylist—hilarious, insightful and digressive in the best way. The end of 2009 saw quite a stir over the lack of women writers on year-end best-of lists. So a note to fellow editors: File this one away for December.” (Time Out Chicago)
“Her story of woe is leavened by great humor. For all of her success in academia, Castle’s writing here is the very opposite of academic: lively, confessional, personal.” (Bay Area Reporter)
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It should also be noted that the book is terrifically funny. I laughed out loud reading each essay. This was the only book I took with me on a Christmas holiday, and I kept laughing out loud in the airport and in the plane. Castle's tone reminds me of conversations I might have with my favorite friends- it's wry, witty, honest. In short, Castle's not too pretentious to be honest or make fun of herself in the interest of analyzing the world and her place in it.
The long concluding piece on the professor / lover is impossible to put down. And there are three essays here that may last as long as smart, literate essays are read (however long that will be): the piece on the jazz great Art Pepper, the one on Castle and Sontag, and (perhaps) best of them all, the one about TC and her mother off rambling, shopping, squabbling, and connecting in Santa Fe. This isn't just a book for profs--it's a book for people who value excellent prose and remarkable narrative powers.