Essay: “Parody in Philip Larkin: A Trick Which Dispels Fear” by Charles Holdefer

“Books are a load of crap.”

This is the conclusion of Philip Larkin’s ‘A Study of Reading Habits’. In this poem, a disillusioned reader recounts how literature has let him down. Nowadays he prefers to get drunk. In three short stanzas, he describes a lifetime of searching and changing tastes and, in the process, deftly parodies various kinds of literature: action and adventure stories, pornography, and earnest realism. As Andrew Motion has observed, literature had offered a way “to fool the sexually insecure reader into thinking he was adventurous and successful […] Now, jaded by failure in the real world, he can see in books only the reflection of his own incompetence”(299). The joke, it seems, is on the hapless reader. Continue reading


Non-Fiction: “Army Math: Bringing it all Back Home” by Sam Mills

“I see a black light.” – Composer Joseph Haydn’s last words – and he had never seen a lava lamp.

Word went around Madison that summer of 1970 that something “heavy” was “coming down.” Already, the New Year’s Gang, a local terror cell of SDS Weather Underground, had bombed both locations of campus ROTC and the power plant that supplied Badger Ordnance – makers of napalm – on the outskirts of town. On New Year’s Eve, they had bombed – from the air symbolically in a stolen plane – the bomb plant itself – and had even – in an attempt to firebomb Selective Service – bombed UW’s famed Primate Lab by mistake. The Kent State shootings were barely three months old; the new National Anthem was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio.” Little wonder that by August, talk of all-out revolution was in the air. Continue reading