Essays

June 23, 2014

A Prologue to the Literary History of the First World War: War Poets at the Ballet 3

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Did Marsh, Thornycroft, Sitwell, Sassoon, and the Thomases all come together for an evening at the ballet—and am I the first to notice?

June 19, 2014

Only Spinning Forward: On the Commercial Viability of LGBTQ Literature 10

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Gay is the new vampire. Everywhere in YA fiction, boys are kissing boys, girls are sidling up against the captains of their swim teams, and queer kids are getting cute. Yet there’s a tremendous disconnect between what’s happening in the YA marketplace and what’s going on with adult fiction.

June 18, 2014

A Piano Quartet 0

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While the following three piano-themed books — Alan Rusbridger’s Play it Again, Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser, and Murray Bail’s extraordinary The Voyage — are all inexplicably devoid of sniper rifles, they do present slightly more nuanced takes on perfection and its discontents.

June 17, 2014

Home as a Verb: Writers on Choosing to Live Overseas 6

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Growing up all over the place makes you skilled at adapting, but it also makes you hungry to belong, something that in part motivates my writing: carving out a space I know, trying to understand what I’m witnessing around me.

June 13, 2014

Mad Men: It’s All About Family Values 3

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If Mad Men is itself a kind of advertisement — a reflection and dramatization of our deepest desires, the ones we didn’t know we had — then its message is both timeless and markedly modern: family is everything; we are hungry for family; your “real” family are, simply, the people who actually know you.

June 12, 2014

Sad, Strange Brilliance: On Tove Jansson and Moomin 3

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In Moomin, I didn’t stumble upon a strange new universe; I found an atmosphere that matched the strangeness I already felt inside.

June 11, 2014

The Art of the Epigraph 9

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I didn’t have a great need to write that story, but the quote would have fit it so perfectly I actually have an unfinished draft somewhere in my discarded Word documents.

May 30, 2014

The Transformation and Legacy of Soho Press 0

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For Bronwen, joining Soho has become a way to keep her mother closer than she ever thought she could. A book will come up that she remembers her mother reading or acquiring. She’ll stumble across books or a note with her mother’s handwriting. She’s surrounded by hundreds of thousands of pages of her mother’s work and passion.

May 28, 2014

Book Clubs Mean Business 8

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Jenna Blum, whose debut novel became a New York Times bestseller four years after its release, visited with as many as three book clubs a day (an estimated of 800 total), and calls her book a “poster child” for the influence of book clubs on a book’s success.

May 23, 2014

The Survivor: On Magneto, Mutants, and the Holocaust 13

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You can read Magneto as the nightmare of every post-1945 Jewish humanist. He is the Jew who lost the soulful liberalism of the Yiddishkeit, and who has allowed the Holocaust to turn him into everything he despises. He is the Jew who will bomb Gaza and say, with some credibility, that it is for defense while privately acknowledging a pleasure in revenge. He is the Jew who has allowed the Holocaust to instill in him a debilitating paranoia.