Reviews

August 27, 2015

Flamed but Not Forgotten: On Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Purity’ 27

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The big stuff, globally speaking, is never really what matters in Franzen’s novels — not nearly so much as love, anyway.

August 24, 2015

Joan Didion, America’s Truth-Teller 2

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Joan Didion possessed the luck of serving as a human tuning fork for the anxieties of her age and the dogged curiosity to pursue those anxieties wherever they led.

August 20, 2015

What Was the Matter with Kansas? On Andrew Malan Milward’s ‘I Was a Revolutionary’ 0

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Unlike many young writers, Milward’s gaze isn’t directed at his own navel, but outward at the rough, strange history of the state that formed him.

August 10, 2015

A Horribly Marvelous and Delicate Abyss: ‘The Complete Stories’ by Clarice Lispector 2

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I have always been fascinated by the fact that Clarice might have been an English language writer. A mere twist of fate that landed the infant Lispector in Brazil heightens the stakes for Clarice’s English-language translators.

August 5, 2015

The Man Behind the Soapbox: On Barton Swaim’s ‘The Speechwriter’ 0

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We want, desperately, to be convinced we’re wrong about our leaders, and it’s our democratic irrationality that we open ourselves up for persuasion every election cycle. Citizens stoke the national appetite for speech, and speechwriters ensure there’s enough to go around.

August 3, 2015

The Dark Background of the Bright Tapestry: On Shirley Jackson’s ‘Let Me Tell You’ 1

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Nobody was a more astute chronicler of the post-war crisis of the female mind in America than Shirley Jackson.

July 22, 2015

A Literary Mixtape: On ‘New American Stories’ 0

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Here is a snapshot of our time, grim and funny and unreal.

July 21, 2015

A Field Guide to Silences: On Tracy K. Smith’s ‘Ordinary Light’ 0

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Smith charts the wake left by the words. She seems most interested in talk: a genre without form or discipline, that can match the mess of grief. Through sentences slung and stuttered, forced to double back and revise, people give and receive solace.

July 21, 2015

An Antidote for Horror: On William Finnegan’s ‘Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life’ 0

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Barbarian Days, in the tradition of the great adventure memoir, is not only an account of events, of waves caught and conquered — it’s a reflection on fear, mortality, and the seductive pleasures that can be found at their very edge.

July 20, 2015

A World Is Hidden in the Things People Say: Linda Rosenkrantz’s ‘Talk’ 1

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Talk said that women speak about sex, drugs, alcohol, S&M, masturbation, boys, adultery, abortion, the pill, vaginas, urination, underwear, penises, and periods. It vocalized an unfairly hidden world.