July 15, 2008

Review by Greg Weiss (email)
Halflife by Meghan O'Rourke
by Meghan O’Rourke

W.W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10110
ISBN: 978-0-393-06475-9
87 pp., $23.95

When you Google-search “Meghan O’Rourke,” the first result is the transcript of a 2006 interview with David Baker, the poetry editor of The Kenyon Review. The interview was occasioned by the publication of five of O’Rourke’s poems in the Fall 2006 issue, and Baker’s questions range from accommodating to gushing. He never quite plumbs the depths of obsequiousness that housed courtside reporter Ahmad Rashad’s postgame questions to Michael Jordan—questions like, “Mike, that was an amazing game you just played”—but he’s no Tim Russert, either. The second Google result is a May 2007 article from Gawker.com, the media gossip blog, entitled “Why People Hate Meghan O’Rourke.”

O’Rourke, who serves as the culture editor of Slate and poetry editor (along with Charles Simic) of The Paris Review, evokes strong opinions. In relation to her poetry, these opinions are almost universally positive–Halflife, her debut book, is graced with blurbs by John Ashbery, Billy Collins, J.D. McClatchy, and Mary Karr, who compares O’Rourke favorably to Elizabeth Bishop. In April 2007, the New York Times Sunday Book Review treated Halflife to what could only be described as a rave. People hate Meghan O’Rourke because she accomplished—or was given, depending on your point of view–all of this by the age of thirty, ostensibly because she is connected, Machiavellian, and pretty.

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