Staff Picks

November 24, 2015

A Visit to Planet North Korea: On Adam Johnson’s ‘The Orphan Master’s Son’ 6


After Adam Johnson’s surprise win of the National Book Award for Fortune Smiles last week, readers new to Johnson’s work may also want to make room on their Christmas wish lists for his 2012 novel, The Orphan Master’s Son.

November 6, 2015

The Language of Dispossession: On Juan Goytisolo’s ‘Count Julian’ 0


Just like the nature of exile itself, the narrative offers no relief, no place of rest: just fragment after fragment of dry landscapes, lonely characters, and rooms in disarray.

October 22, 2015

A Poisonous Antidote: On Anne Sexton’s ‘Transformations’ 1


Sexton injects the modern world into Grimm’s fairy tales, but does so by inserting mundane references and contemporary mood. The result is poems with the architecture of archetype but modern anxiety.

August 31, 2015

How the Brain Forgets: On Penelope Farmer’s ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ 0


I recommend Charlotte Sometimes wholeheartedly, and for those of you who may have read it as a child, I recommend returning to it, if only because rereading is one of the only forms of time travel available to us. What seems forgotten is only waiting to be rediscovered.

February 18, 2015

Nothing But a Hound Dog: Mikheil’s Javakhishvili’s ‘Kvachi’ 4


The novel, which began as a series of sketches, hurtles from one of Kvachi’s scams, scrapes, or seductions to the next, pausing every so often to drive home the monstrosity of its hero.

February 2, 2015

Gone in Thirty Seconds: On Michael J. Arlen’s Advertising Drama 0


The N.W. Ayer advertising agency came up with AT&T’s “Reach Out” campaign and its accompanying ditty, which melodically encouraged both telephone users and subway gropers to “Reach out, reach out, and touch someone!”

July 10, 2014

The Scourge of the Peloton: On Tim Krabbé’s The Rider 0


In honor of the Tour de France, taking to the couch with Tim Krabbé’s sports classic.

May 28, 2014

Into the Sublime: On Geoff Dyer’s Another Great Day at Sea 0


A unique and compelling stylist, and a charming reporter, Dyer seems to have an absolute bang-up time on this assignment, and it’s a pleasure to go along with him.

February 12, 2014

Plotted in Technicolor: On Mark Haskell Smith’s Raw 0


One particular image from Baked by Mark Haskell Smith persists in my memory. There is bondage involved. And testicle shaving. It was with this in mind that I began Smith’s new novel, Raw: A Love Story. I hoped to find that same ribald humor, not to mention a few delightful plot twists. I wasn’t disappointed.

July 24, 2013

Lost Worlds: On Stephanie Vaughn’s Sweet Talk 2


There is ambivalence toward authority throughout Sweet Talk, something more than the usual coming-of-age disillusionment, as Gemma confronts the dark side of military culture. It’s an ambivalence that feels especially relevant now, as Americans look back on a decade of war overseas.