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From the archives

Liberal Interpretations

Making sense of Justin Trudeau and his party

Clock Watching

The nuclear threat lingers still

Spending Power

Can compassion and efficiency be combined in the use of public funds?

John Semley

John Semley lives and works in Toronto. He is the author of a book of criticism, Hater: The Virtues of Utter Disagreeability, coming this fall from Penguin.

Articles by
John Semley

Did Virtue and the Think Piece Ruin Criticism?

Criticism in the shadow of cultural poptimism April 2018
In most modern instances, interpretation amounts to the philistine refusal to leave the work of art alone. Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, comfortable.—Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation,” 1964 Carmela Soprano: Billy Budd is a story of an innocent sailor being picked on by an evil

Peak Twins

Doppelgängers, hauntings, and the rise of the neuro-fantastic November 2017
In Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë has her intermittently cruel, hopelessly romantic, infinitely malleable anti-hero Heathcliff howl for the ghost of his deceased love, Catherine, in a wonderfully revealing way. “Be with me always,” Heathcliff implores, “take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”…

The Outside Man

A celebrity memoir from a uniquely talented artist on the edge of fame, and Hollywood itself May 2017
The tell-all celebrity memoir falls victim to a strange paradox. Generally speaking, readers are drawn to such books by the promise of lascivious and decadent stories of life at the top: sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, and that whole outlandish Hollywood Babylon trip. The problem is that the more legendarily lewd and unruly the given…

The Logroller's Waltz

“Trenchant!” “Transcendent!” A “riveting exploration” of the book-blurbing economy. December 2016
In the summer of 2010 advance reading copies of the English translation of the Israeli author David Grossman’s acclaimed novel To the End of the Land began making the proverbial rounds. The publisher was hoping to secure pre-release blurbs—those words of lavish, unrestrained praise meant to suggest that, yes, this is a book worth…