Welcome to TRE Press, a publishing extension of The Reading Experience. Here you will find ebook and paperback volumes collecting critical essays that have appeared separately both on the blog and in numerous other publications. They represent my ongoing interests in postwar/contemporary American fiction, in the principles of literary criticism, and in the "idea of literature." The versions of each volume, in a free pdf or a Kindle ebook, are the same. (It is, however, possible--even likely--that each volume may be updated from time to time.) Thanks for reading.                    




Essays on the Rise of Literary Criticism Online

"In this volume I have included most of my substantial posts on the blog as medium, as well as literary culture online in general. (Cuts have been made in some posts, and more felicitous language occasionally inserted in others.) They are presented in chronological order, from 2004 to 2019. I have chosen this arrangement because it shows the development of my thinking about online literary criticism and because it may perhaps be interesting for readers to survey the issues that arose as literary blogging itself developed. An omission in my own consideration of these issues would have to be the lack of attention given to the rise of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. The latter in particular signaled the end of the first, expansive era of blogging, providing as it did a more efficient alternative to the blog as a source of concise commentary and hyperlinks. This has inevitably left the blogger with a smaller audience, but also paradoxically strengthened the case for blogs as a mode of more sustained thinking."--PRELUDE


  Pdf Version

Kindle Version

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Essays on the use and misuse of literature in academe


Inventing Literature 

Performing Literature 

Reading Literature 

Theorizing Literature 

Historicizing Literature 

Relinquishing Literature 

Reclaiming Literature? 


At School 

A Period of Transition 

The Organized Efforts of the Program


Abandoning the Ruins 


"Only if one accepts that literature and the academy are linked in some necessary and unavoidable way will one also feel that Literature’s fall from academic grace is quite the catastrophe the traditionalists make it out to be, however, or that its influence had to be counteracted in the name of other causes one values more highly. Once this link is broken, Literature ceases to be, and the forms of writing that have long been held hostage to it—“fine poems and novels”—would then no longer be subject to any of the agendas academic scholars and critics bring to the discipline-based study of capital-l literature. I am convinced that this would be the best possible outcome of the curricular wars, both for the survival of those older works that once formed the core of the academic canon and for the work of living writers, which has generally either been considered unworthy of attention at all or otherwise made the objects of the most politicized, coarsest forms of analysis."

---From "Inventing Literature"

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Kindle Version

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Essays on contemporary American realist fiction. (More information)

    Free pdf

    Kindle ebook

Radical Realists: Stephen Dixon, Nicholson Baker, Sam Pink, others

Regressive Realists: Richard Powers, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, others



The Idea of Literature surveys a variety of topics related to the appreciation of literature. It collects writing (revised and expanded) that originally appeared on The Reading Experience. (More information)

    Free pdf

    Kindle ebook

Among the topics considered: The Experience of Reading/ Literary Style/ "Saying Something"/ The Study of Literature



A survey of the trends in current experimental fiction through an analysis of selected writers and works. (More information)

    Free pdf

    Kindle ebook

Among the writers considered: David Foster Wallace/ Gary Lutz/ John Keene/ Shelley Jackson



IwwA survey of innovative fiction by contemporary women writers. (More information)

    Free pdf

    Kindle ebook

Among the writers considered: Rikki Ducornet/Aimee Bender/Helen DeWitt/Noy Holland




APF (2)

What was postmodernism? Essays on important American postmodern writers. (More information)

    Free pdf

    Kindle ebook

Among the writers considered: Thomas Pynchon/ William Gass/ Donald Barthelme/ Ishmael Reed





A study of the "black humor" movement in American fiction. (More information)

    Free pdf

    Kindle ebook

Among the writers considered: Joseph Heller/ Kurt Vonnegut/ James Purdy/ Terry Southern





Essays on the current state of general-interest literary criticism. (More information)

    Free pdf

    Kindle ebook

Contents include: Book Reviewing in America/Going Negative/Justifying Criticism/Criticism in Cyberspace





A study of the novels by the neglected American writer James Purdy. (More information)

    Free pdf

    Kindle ebook





From Cow Eye Press:


Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism 

    Publisher website 







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