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A Year and a Day

A Year and a Day

An Experiment in Essays

by Phillip Lopate

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The essay is the most pluckily pedestrian and blithely transgressive of literary genres, the one that is most at large and in need, picking through the leftovers of daily life and personal and social history to take what suits it and remake it as it sees fit. It is, at its lively best, quite indifferent to the claims of style, fashion, theory, and respectability, provoking and inspiring through the pleasure of surprise. In 2016, Phillip Lopate, who has been writing essays and thinking about the essay for decades now, turned his attention to one of the essay’s offshoots, the blog, a form by that time already thick with virtual dust. Lopate committed to writing a weekly blog about, really, whatever over the course of a year.

It was an experiment, and what came out of it was A Year and a Day, a virtuosic (if never showy) demonstration of the essay’s range and reach, meandering, looping back, hitting reset, forging on. Lopate’s topics along the way include family, James Baldwin, going to China, Agnes Martin, Abbas Kiarostami, the resistible rise of Donald Trump, death, desire, and the tribulations, small and large, of daily life. What results is at once a self-portrait, a picture of the times, and a splendid book of essays.

Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781681377780
Pages: 216
Publication Date:


While a year of blog posts might not seem like an impressive feat, the profound and impactful series written and published by Phillip Lopate reinvents the genre of nonfiction and the perception of a blog... his piece is a profoundly moving depiction of a life well-lived—it is the story of age, experience, curiosity, intelligence, and a man aware of his flaws.
—Emerson L. Giese, Harvard Crimson

He introduces you to totally different time periods, worlds, depths of knowledge. He hasn’t read five Montaigne essays, he’s read them all. . . . Most writers are melancholic. He’s joyful, with infectious energy. . . . There’s no replacement for Phillip Lopate.
—Rivka Galchen, Tablet

The pieces are timely, but not dated. . . . There are tributes to famous friends. . . . There are also essays about travel, dating, married life, vacation, his lifelong obsession with film, and his late-life obsession with Montaigne. During his year as a blogger, Lopate may have had in mind Flaubert’s dream of a book about nothing. A critic’s life was lived instead.

Lopate has long been established as an exemplar of the personal essay as well as a critic, poet, and, occasionally, fiction writer. In 2016, he took on a less formal task, producing a weekly blog for the American Scholar. The resulting collection of these posts, penned with a generally light touch, affords Lopate greater freedom of movement and a wider range of subject matter...A master of short-form discourse succeeds with highly individualized and candid observations.

I found Phillip’s blog and began reading. I couldn’t stop. The essay in [Lopate’s] tradition is tentative, skeptical, digressive, and, above all, conversational. It goes some place without knowing where it is going to go. It revises itself. It is one person speaking to another, a late-night talk where ideas are tried out.
—Ned Stuckey-French, The Woven Tale Press

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