Jon Thompson Current Work


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From Pictures of a Floating World


Thresholds, Absolution, and Black Market
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Critical Prose


Ferocious Alphabets: Michael Herr's Dispatches


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After Paradise: Essays on the Fate of American Writing


Carefully crafted and lyrically written, After Paradise fuses literary and critical sensibilities in an idiom that defines itself as much through its style as its content. At the same time, it offers interconnected reflections upon what I call "the fate of American writing": that is, the aspirations key American writers have had for their writing, what work they want it to do in a world hostile to artistic expression, and what limitations it is forced to acknowledge in the face of war, death, the dispositions of the body and a deeply materialistic society. Written in the form of fragmentary reflections, the fragments are assembled in a patterned fashion to favor suggestion, indirection and allusiveness over flat exposition. Rather than construct a single line of argument which buries, denies or denounces alternative points of view, the book employs a many-voiced language which gives play to competing points of view in a dynamic, open-ended form.

After Paradise does not, therefore, attempt to sustain a single argument; instead, by aggregating short, epigrammatic meditations that circle back around key issues, I hope to shed light on the figures these texts make, as well as on the culture and history of the nation that produced them.

Each chapter focuses on a single American text. The chapters are organized chronologically, beginning with William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, and then going on to Herman Melville's "Bartleby," Walt Whitman's Speciman Days, Emily Dickinson's Letters and Michael Herr's Dispatches.