Skip to content

PW Review: Loaded Words

7th March 2012

March 5, 2012

Loaded Words
Marjorie Garber
304 pp, 978-0-82324205-4, paper, $26.00

Self-styled “peripatetic writer,” Harvard Shakespearean, and culture critic Garber (The Use and Abuse of Literature) collects loosely connected but fascinating essays (about half of them previously published in journals and books) on a range of themes. No word is more loaded than “madness,” which she considers in its ’50s and ’60s expression and incarnation in Mad magazine and Mad Libs. She considers the significance of reading “in slow motion,” focusing on the words rather than on external contexts, and the cultural implications of Shakespeare astride the literary canon. She uses the occasion of Patti Smith winning a National Book Award (Garber was on the panel that selected her book Just Kids) to meditate on celebrity lives as mythologies (like celebrities, “whatever [the Olympian gods] did, they were always good copy”). And finally, she pleads for reinvigorating the humanities, which she sees as plagued by low self-esteem, through the fostering of collaboration, a new literary commitment, and a reduction of hyperspecialization and overinsulation within English departments. Scholarship cross-fertilized by a new engagement with the political world remains Garber’s vision. (June)

Reviewed on: 03/05/2012