Hi, I'm Becca. I am the non-fiction book critic of the Washington Post, an editor at The Point, and a contributing editor at The Boston Review . I'm also in the process of putting the finishing touches on an essay collection, tentatively titled All Things Are Too Small, to be published by Henry Holt in the US and Virago in the UK. Finally, I am also a PhD candidate (on indefinite hiatus) in philosophy at Harvard, but i remain perhaps delusionally convinced that someday I will finish my dissertation. These days I live in Washington, DC, with this person, whom I love. Here you can find all of my Washington Post pieces, which will come out each week, generally speaking.
To keep up with my writing/rantings, subscribe to my substack here.
As a writer:
I have contributed essays, book reviews, and the occasional art review to publications like The TLS, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Liberties, Bookforum (RIP), Art in America, The Yale Review, The Baffler, and more. These days, I write mostly for the Washington Post about non-fiction, but occasionally I write essays on fiction and whatever else for other venues. I am the winner of the first annual Robert B. Silvers Prize for Literary Criticism (see more here). I'm also a two-time finalist for The National Book Critics Circle's book reviewing prize (2016 and 2018), and in 2017, I was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the essays/criticism category. A few authors I especially love are Joseph Roth, Italo Svevo, Henry James, Henry Green, Heinrich von Kleist, Marie de France, Simone Weil, Antal Szerb, and Norman Rush. My agent is Anna Sproul-Latimer of Neon Literary.
As a (lapsed?) philosopher:
I am primarily interested in aesthetics (especially aesthetic value and its relationship to other types of value), the philosophy of love and sex, and the history of German philosophy, especially Martin Heidegger, although I have increasingly consuming secondary interests in political philosophy. In "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," published in The British Journal of Aesthetics, I defend aestheticism, the view that aesthetic value is sometimes a partial grounds of moral value. I describe aestheticism in more detail in a forthcoming chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Art. If I ever get around to completing it, my dissertation will be about some combination of the following: what it is to be a beautiful person, why evolutionary psychologists are wrong about human beauty, the ethics of exclusionary romantic/sexual/aesthetic preferences, and what role the state should play in ameliorating inequitable distributions of intimate "goods." I hold a first-class MPhil in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge and a B.A., summa cum laude with high honors, from Dartmouth College, where I studied philosophy & German (and cultivated an enduring distaste for fraternities).
I receive many emails asking for advice about graduate school applications. I have answered some frequently asked questions on this page. As I note there, I do not consider myself an expert in how to write a successful graduate school application, and I urge all prospective grad students to consult resources online, as well as supervisors who have served on admissions committees, rather than me!
Before the pandemic, I followed Hegel in regarding nature as geistlos, but now, like any good Heideggerian, I am a big fan of hiking. Here I am in the Berkshires, which I love
The life of the Polish Jewish author Bruno Schulz was, by pedestrian measures, a small one. It ended prematurely in 1942, when he was murdered in the street at the age of 50 by a Gestapo officer, and it was almost entirely confined to his provincial hometown of Drohobycz. Schulz drew compulsively, and in his brooding sketches crammed big-headed figures into cramped frames and rooms with low, clutching ceilings. Schulz himself was short and hunched. In photographs, he glowers. “He was small, strange, chimerical, focused, intense, almost feverish,” a friend, the Polish novelist Witold Gombrowicz, recalled in a diary entry. His fiction, too, was small and strange. Schulz’s surviving output consists of just two collections of short fiction, some letters, a few essays, and a handful of stray stories. His longest work spans about 150 pages. Read more here or in print.
...on the centennial of her birth.
"When I first read Iris Murdoch, I was feeling disastrously American at the University of Cambridge. Murdoch’s fiction was proof that English intellectuals did have turbulent emotional lives, however unruffled they appeared at formal halls. Murdoch not only salvaged my year abroad: she also helped me to perceive a connection between the moral and the aesthetic that I had yet to discern. The quality of any piece of writing (fictional or otherwise) is in large part question of its sensitivity to other people’s experience of the world. Thus any would-be writer has aesthetic – in addition to ethical – reason to practise empathy." Read the rest (and other TLS contributors' contributions) here.