How To Be Normal: Essays. Features ruminations on whiteness, masculinity, Midwesternness, middlebrow, being married, and watching bad movies with your dad, among other things. Caused me to be described as “one of the America’s best essayists” in the TLS, while the New Republic called it “a frank and fearless guide for the perplexed, the battered, the exhausted, and the outraged.” You can read an excerpt here. Belt Publications, 2022.

Midwest Futures. Belt Publications, 2020. A brief and informal cultural history of the Midwest, which won the 2021 Midwest Book Award for Nonfiction-History-Regional. 


My Book Tour column, published irregularly by Plough Quarterly, where I talk about the best new and reissued books that come to my attention. I’ve talked about opera, the end of the world, mass surveillance, media ecology, Sun Ra, longtermism (I’m agin’ it), colonialism, all sorts of things. It’s amazing how if you read widely the world just sort of rolls over and shows you its belly, like a cat wanting scratches.

Essays and Reviews

“The Rod Dreher Reality Show.” For Jacobin. This isn’t really about Rod; it’s about Big Ed.

“The Debate: Is Masculinity Worth Saving?” A piece for The Nation‘s The Debate series. I took the “No” side and Laura Kipnis took the “Yes” side. She won but I held my own.

“Cartwheeling Truth.” I read Marguerite Young’s Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, and damned if I’m going to read a nearly-1200-page book and not write about it. For The Baffler.

“A Change of Hart?” On the theologian-polymath David Bentley Hart, for Commonweal.

“The Embarrassingly Banal Fall of a University President.” How often, in a writer’s career, does he get to do a close reading of his boss’s leaked emails? For The Real News.

You know what got me through the pandemic? Reading the YouTube comments on old Joy Division videos. I’m serious. For Plough.

On Helen Oyeyemi, who I think is one of the most interesting living writers in the English language, for Commonweal.

On late DeLillo, for Commonweal.

A little tribute to Jacques Rivette and in particular Celine et Julie vont en bateau, for Mubi, one of the three streaming services worth a damn.

On Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry of the Future, for New Atlantis. This provoked a response letter, to which I in turn responded; the debate may be interesting to folks who are interested in the theory of the novel in the age of climate change.

“How the Midwest Became Ordinary.” An excerpt from Midwest Futures for Vox.

“Thank God Throwing Muses’ Kristin Hersh Still Gives a Shit.” I believe the title is self-explanatory. For The Outline.

“Modular Man: Richard Nixon.” In which I explain my weird fascination with the awful 37th President, for The Hedgehog Review.

“So You Want To Be a Writer” (review of John Warner’s Why They Can’t Write). For Plough. Closest thing to a memoir I hope I’ll ever write, and a review of a book that I would heartily recommend to any writing teacher.

“Poetry and Prophecy, Dust and Ashes” (review of Robert Alter’s translation of the Hebrew Bible). Also for Plough. It’s as much a tribute as it is a review; I revere Alter.

Review of Adam Kotsko’s Neoliberalism’s Demons. For my pals at The Hedgehog Review

A tribute to the late Mary Midgley, one of my favorite philosophers and, honestly, in some ways a model prose stylist. For Hedgehog.

Review of Curtis Dawkins’s The Greybar Hotel. This is my wife’s second-favorite thing I’ve ever written. (To see her favorite, you’ll just have to buy How to Be Normal, listed above under “Books.”) For Commonweal.

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