Essays

June 27, 2013

Love is a Skill: Andrew Solomon’s Long Path from Fiction to Non-Fiction 0

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His non-fiction is so narrative, with large swaths of memoir, and also, so literary, with allusions to myth and literature, that I wondered what more—or less—his fiction could possibly offer.

June 26, 2013

Richardson, Fielding and a (Partial) Defense of ‘Angry Young Men’ 7

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I don’t think anyone has ever been haunted by Tom Jones. Delighted, for sure, but not haunted. Does that mean that Samuel Richardson and his aesthetic heirs wrote better books? I’m surprised to find that I’m not sure anymore.

June 25, 2013

The Literary Origins of North West 5

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Is Kimye aware of the literary connotation of their baby name? Probably not, or they wouldn’t have associated their daughter with mommy issues and madness as fickle as the wind.

June 25, 2013

Aphrodisiacal Footnotes and the Impotence of History 5

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No historian in the history of writing history was writing history in order to get laid. And that’s ultimately why, I’m afraid, we’re history. Our time has come.

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?