Articles by Lydia Kiesling

November 15, 2016

Modern Library Revue #5: Brave New World 11

Disdain is empathy’s evil and more efficient twin, both born of close observation. Novels that consider individual reactions to events must be empathetic. But any novelist who wishes to depict society must harness disdain in order to make the depiction stick for the long term.

January 20, 2016

Death and Heirs: A View from the San Francisco Housing Market 13

Listed for $338,000, at that moment the lowest price in the city, the house was called a “contractor’s special;” two of its three bedrooms were qualified on the listing agent’s half-assed flier as “legality unknown.” When we went to the open house, the same agent eyed my eight-months-pregnant stomach and advised me to cover my mouth and nose before stepping inside.

December 5, 2015

A Year in Reading: Lydia Kiesling 3

The year has gone by very quickly, and yet its component moments were glacial, with a glacier’s way of doing a lot while appearing to do very little.

October 12, 2015

I’ve Rarely Felt So Free: The Millions Interviews Garth Risk Hallberg 9

You know this as a writer — it’s mostly torture. You have those days when you say, ‘This was a great day! The writing went well!’ And then if you actually paused and walked back through the writing hour by hour you would realize, ‘No, it was still mostly torture, but it was a kind of exquisite and joyous torture on this day, as opposed to the gray horrible torture that it is on most days.’

August 27, 2015

Flamed but Not Forgotten: On Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Purity’ 42

The big stuff, globally speaking, is never really what matters in Franzen’s novels — not nearly so much as love, anyway.

July 28, 2015

Beautiful Babies 4

I want her to feel unencumbered by anyone’s opinion of her beauty or lack thereof. And yet I also want her to feel beautiful, to wear whatever she wants, to luxuriate in a sense that her chosen mate finds her irresistible, to never fear a dressing room or bathing suit or florescent light.

June 30, 2015

Two Lives: On Hanya Yanagihara and Atticus Lish 13

In Yanagihara’s novel, squalor and degradation are the ruinous individual exception in a world of summer houses and talent and hard work that gets you somewhere; in Lish’s, they are the baseline condition of the life we have made on our planet.

March 2, 2015

On Forgetting: Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘The Buried Giant’ 5

At some moments, I felt I had found an apocryphal eighth Chronicle of Narnia, written by a particularly cheerless, possibly aphasic disciple of C.S. Lewis.

January 26, 2015

I Would Do This for You: The Narrative Possibilities of Leaked Emails 3

Wikileaks and the news media were interested in these emails for their geopolitical implications, but they also represent a veritable cornucopia of narrative pleasures, all the more delectable because they are strange and secret and real.

December 6, 2014

A Year in Reading: Lydia Kiesling 6

I am writing this on a Friday, and I’m supposed to have a baby on Tuesday.