Articles by Emily St. John Mandel

July 22, 2011

The Second Life of Irmgard Keun 6

The German novelist Irmgard Keun’s life was the stuff of fiction: she was a best-selling debut novelist at twenty-six, published a second bestseller a year later, was blacklisted by the Nazi regime and in exile by the spring of 1936. She was possessed of a spectacular talent. She managed to convey the political horrors she lived through with the lightest possible touch, even flashes of humor.

June 27, 2011

The Beauty I Long For: Maira Kalman and the Principles of Uncertainty 4

Her books are quirky, deeply moving, and beautiful documents of life on earth. She considers Spinoza, George Washington, fruit platters, her dog, the nature of war. If this sounds incoherent, it isn’t. “I am trying to figure out two very simple things,” she said once at a TED conference. “How to live, and how to die. Period. That’s all I’m trying to do, all day long.”

May 26, 2011

Under Water: Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists 0

The story that surrounds Johanna Skibsrud’s first novel is captivating. The Sentimentalists, published by Canada’s tiny Gaspereau Press in an initial print run of 800, was the surprise winner of the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize. And yet hype, of course, is a double-edged sword.

May 18, 2011

Migrations: A Reading List 6

Migration in its various forms is at the heart of a great many of my favorite plots in fiction. But beyond that it seems to me that migration, as an idea of motion, is inextricable from good fiction. Your characters must change—they must move, psychically at least, from point A to point B—and the plot must move forward.

April 28, 2011

A Guest in the Night City 1

If the night city is a territory, Nightshift NYC stands as an essential guide.

April 14, 2011

Staff Pick: Two Crime Novels 12

The most recent books I’ve read in the genre confirm my long-held suspicion that attempting to categorize books by genre does readers a disservice; these books are no less literary than any of the other great books I’ve read this year, they just have crimes and/or guns in them.

March 28, 2011

Heartland of Darkness: Timothy Schaffert’s Midwestern Trilogy 6

It seems to me that we could be almost anywhere, in any place far off the beaten track. Schaffert’s Bonnevilla is so sketchily rendered that it’s easy to project the places you’ve known over it.

March 14, 2011

The Chameleon Machine 8

Digital readers and paper books have little in common. But both objects have considerable merit, and this is why I think we should combine the two.

February 22, 2011

Mold, Gin, and the Apocalypse: Lars Iyer’s Spurious 1

I feel some kinship with Lars, the narrator of Lars Iyer’s Spurious, a debut novel and a meditation on friendship, failure, the apocalypse, messianism, and mold.

February 7, 2011

On Bad Reviews 73

Given all the years you spent writing your book or composing your music or perfecting your play before someone came along and spat on it, it’s extraordinarily difficult to respond to a bad review with grace.