Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography in Essays

Claire Messud
Published in 2020
by Norton

“Literary language is a kind of spell, a performative utterance: words conjure worlds out of air,” writes Claire Messud in the introduction to her essay collection, which blends autobiography and criticism into a portrait of a life spent celebrating art and literature. Beginning with a series of personal essays on subjects such as her childhood move from Connecticut to Australia, her relationship with the women in her family, and visiting her father as he’s nearing the end of his life, readers get a glimpse into the life of a gifted storyteller, whose criticism is a window into learning about the transformative qualities of art and literature. Venturing into contemporary classics by writers such as Teju Cole, Rachel Cusk, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Valeria Luiselli, as well as works of art by Marlene Dumas, Sally Mann, and Alice Neel, this book is instructive as much as it is redemptive, an examination of how seeing a work of art can align with seeing one’s own unexpected story play out. 


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