The Professor and Other Writings
By Terry Castle
Harper, Hardcover, 9780061670909, 352pp.
Publication Date: January 2010
List Price: $25.99*
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From one of America's most brilliant critics and cultural commentators comes a long-awaited collection of penetrating autobiographical essays and a riveting short memoir, novelistic in style and ambition, about the pathos, comedy, and devastation of early love.
Stanford professor and longtime contributor to the London Review of Books, the Atlantic, the New Republic, Slate, and other publications, Terry Castle is widely admired for the wit, panache, intellectual breadth, and emotional honesty of her writings on life, literature, and art. Now, at long last, she has collected some of the more personal of her recent essays in a single volume. Several pieces here are already acknowledged classics: "Desperately Seeking Susan," the celebrated account she wrote in 2005 of her droll and somewhat bittersweet friendship with Susan Sontag; "My Heroin Christmas," a darkly humorous examination of addiction, her family and stepsiblings, and the late, great jazz saxophonist Art Pepper; and the picaresque "Travels with My Mother," a rollicking travelogue that brings together Castle's complicated relationship with her mother, lesbianism, art, and the difficult yet transcendent work of the painter Agnes Martin.
At the center of the collection, however, is the title work, published here for the first time: a candid and wrenching exploration of Castle's relationship, during her graduate school years, with a female professor. At once hilarious and rueful, it is a pitch-perfect recollection of the fiascos of youth: how we come to own (or disown) our sexuality; how we understand (or don't) the emotional needs and wishes of others; how the ordeals of desire can prompt a lifelong search for self-understanding.
In this account of a sentimental education, as in all the essays in The Professor and Other Writings, Terry Castle reveals herself as a truly remarkable writer: utterly distinctive, wise, frank, and fearless.
“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.”
“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)
“…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.”
“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
“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.”
“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.”
“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
“[An] irresistible new collection of personal essays. . . . The Professor goes places no book ever written about professors has ever gone. . . . Superb.”
“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
“A collection of six recent essays from this Stanford professor and Lambda Literary Award winner, The Professor is a hybrid of memoir and criticism containing equal measures of good humor, snark and self deprecation.”
“[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
“Her new essay collection, The Professor and Other Writings is filled with her trademark wit and honest, smart writing. Taken together, these six essays read like an engrossing and entertaining memoir.”
-Largehearted Boy Blog
“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