Post-40 Bloomers

November 13, 2014

Joan Chase: Our Childhood Edens and Lost Orchards of Memory 3

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We fall back on the novel itself and on our own reactions, delving deeper into the territory of self-investigation. Which is to say, into literature.

October 16, 2014

Ruthless, Beautiful, Dangerous, Comforting: How It Is in the World of Tove Jansson   1

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Literarily, I am about 11 years old — falling in love over and again with that secret understanding, the deep solace that odd, lonely children typically find in books about odd, lonely children. This is my best explanation for why the adult stories and novels of Tove Jansson have captivated me so fully.

September 18, 2014

Everything Changes: An Interview With Ronna Wineberg 0

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We sat in the living room of my parents’ house and asked questions of our grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We were riveted by their stories and decided to record the conversations on cassette tapes. The discussions were lively; people disagreed about what had happened in the past. My great-grandfather had been murdered in Russia. My great uncle, a man in his late 60s, described the murder to us and as he did, he cried.

August 21, 2014

This Could Be Your Story: On Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves 0

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Parents, partners, relatives, friends: someday you will watch a person you care about suffer. It’s not so much that last shovelful of dirt on the grave that should terrify us, but emptying all those bedpans.

July 24, 2014

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s Burst of Sicilian Sun 0

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When I read Lampedusa the sun bursts up indeed, thawing all of that deeply seeded “puritanical horror,” and reconciling life forces that, as Lampedusa attempts to show us, were never meant to be opposed.

June 12, 2014

Kiran Nagarkar: Language, Lore, and Lack of Sales 2

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Nagarkar has said in multiple interviews that he doesn’t want to do the same thing twice. And in challenging himself as a writer, he is challenging his readers as well, tackling religion, history, and current events no matter who might take offense.

May 15, 2014

Paolo Sorrentino: Old is Young, and Late is Late 2

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I mention Sorrentino’s age — his relative youth, for an artist so accomplished — because what I have found most intriguing in his work is the character vehicle he’s chosen, time and again, for his explorations: the aging male in his unlovely twilight.

April 17, 2014

Sergei Dovlatov: Gravity, Levity, and Love 3

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A few years ago, when I first starting reading and writing about Dovlatov, I focused on the wickedly humorous side of Dovlatov’s deadpan. But a few years later, and a few more books into his body of work, I find myself more interested in that earnestness and regret — in Dovlatov the evolving man and artist, who crafted and, yes, honed a version of himself in his fiction that was just distorted enough to be true.

March 13, 2014

Deadlines, Word Counts, and Magnificent Lies: On Hesh Kestin 0

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He had finished his first [novel], Small Change, when he was 23, and it was bought and slated for publication until he balked at changing the title to Season of Lust. The book was never published, nor were the next three. Eventually, as he puts it, “the noise of the hungry bellies of my kids used to keep me up at night.” So he got a real job, this time as a war correspondent—for, as it turned out, Newsday.

February 13, 2014

Post-40 Bloomers: You’ve Come a Long Way, Lady James 2

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James’s detective novels represent the best qualities of the genre: they are absorbing, intellectually challenging, emotionally satisfying, and artfully constructed. The process of unraveling the mystery demands the reader’s attention and patience as the investigators work through the evidence, and yet the solutions that emerge seem simultaneously surprising and inevitable.