Essays

June 18, 2013

A Genre Is Born: The Babylon Rite Slaughters Its Darlings 0

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Walter Benjamin would have loved this guy Tom Knox. He didn’t just dissolve a genre. He poured half a dozen genres into a literary Waring blender and hit the puree button.

June 17, 2013

A Virtuoso at Work: Joyce Carol Oates Turns 75 4

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Joyce Carol Oates turned 75 years old yesterday, and she’s now writing some of the best fiction of her career. The Accursed is the Oates novel that best displays her range, her feel for the pressures we all exert on each other.

June 12, 2013

Dragon Ladies 8

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My grandmother, the writer Han Suyin, died last November at ninety-six. The funeral was in Switzerland, and I went only because my mother asked me to. Twice. “You’ll be fine,” I said. “Just remember what an asshole she was.”

June 11, 2013

My Own Private Iceland 10

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Three of Sjón’s books have just appeared for the first time in America. They combine legends and tall tales, magical realism and biblical allegory, landscape and maritime studies, arcane scientific and theological musings, YA-style swashbuckling and personal confession. They’re wonder books, cabinets of curiosity, and extended riffs.

June 10, 2013

Devoutly to Be Wished: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Consummation 6

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With astounding single-mindedness (or monomania, if you prefer), Knausgaard has pursued a writing project that both consumes him and sequesters him from life. He’s Ahab, only he’s gone and caught the whale.

June 6, 2013

A Forgotten Bestseller: The Saga of John Williams’s Stoner 12

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What is the story of Stoner? How does an American book first published in 1965 go on to become a bestseller in the Netherlands in 2013?

June 5, 2013

Goodbye, Maxwell’s: On the Demise of Hoboken and Places Like It 23

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Nostalgic locals are replaced by the hipster vanguard; the hipster vanguard is replaced again. To the young newcomers who didn’t grow up here, there’s little reason to care: Hoboken is said to boast more bars per capita than any other American city.

June 4, 2013

Bearing the Burden: The Moral Cost of a Professional Army 1

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Fire and Forget, written by veterans (and one Army wife), stands as the best fictional account of the wars of the last decade and the contemporary military experience, and as such, is utterly damning of the devil’s bargain the nation and its military have entered into.

June 3, 2013

Will Kindle Worlds Commodify Fan Fiction? 1

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Kindle Worlds might seem like a vast step up for your average fanfic writer, the best of whom are paid in praise alone. If it didn’t feel like such a fundamental and remotely insulting misunderstanding of fan culture, if it didn’t feel like a prime chance for corporations to exploit rather than promote, I might even praise Amazon.

May 22, 2013

Nothing Funnier Than Unhappiness: A Necessarily Ill-Informed Argument for Flann O’Brien’s The Poor Mouth as the Funniest Book Ever Written 9

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Here’s how funny it is: It’s funnier than A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s funnier than Money or Lucky Jim. It beats Shalom Auslander to a bloody, chuckling pulp with his own funny-bone. It is certainly the funniest book I’ve ever read.