cover image The Professor and Other Writings

The Professor and Other Writings

Terry Castle. Harper, $25.99 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-06-167090-9

Cultural scholar and essayist Castle (The Literature of Lesbianism) puts her keen analytical powers and droll wit to fine use in her latest collection of autobiographical essays. Written between 2002 and 2009, Castle's seven pieces are wildly diverse in subject matter, including a rumination on controversial jazz virtuoso Art Pepper and an obituary of late leftist icon Susan Sontag. Castle's voice shines as she repeatedly peels back layers of assumptions to reveal thought-provoking, often funny and sometimes moving observations: an essay about Castle's obsessive interest in WWI becomes a thoughtful meditation on feminine courage, both horrifying and amusing (often in a single paragraph); a seemingly-banal piece about home interior magazines becomes an astute examination of the personal struggle for security in the post-9/11 world. Obscure references and a predictably academic approach never let readers forget they're dealing with a professional scholar, but Castle's fierce wit and self-deprecating style keep her text from becoming stilted, proving that ""entertaining"" and ""high-minded"" needn't be mutually exclusive.