May 9, 2013

Sing It, Sister! On Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings 17


As I read its final lines, declarative and profound and true, I felt mournful. The book — this book! — was over. I closed the novel and wondered if I could write a book this big, this ballsy. I imagined Ms. Wolitzer behind an imposing mahogany desk, quill in hand. “Why not?” she said to me, and smiled. Yes, why not?

May 7, 2013

Making Things Is Hard Work: Janet Malcolm’s Forty-One False Starts 2


A fair amount of writing about artists is premised on the idea that they are better or worse or more generous or brutish or attuned to the subtle vibrations of the universe than the rest of us. Malcolm doesn’t seem to think so, and it’s very refreshing.

May 2, 2013

James Salter’s All That Is: From Dream to Reality 3


This is not George Saunders or Lorrie Moore making fun of the ineffectualness of romantic impulses; this is for real.

April 30, 2013

Ivy League from the Outside: Andre Aciman’s Harvard Square 1


It’s interesting that so few narratives about Harvard have ever been told from the non-elite, unassimilated experience. Such a void is, finally and wonderfully, filled by Andre Aciman’s brilliant new novel.

April 12, 2013

Alienation for Two: Fiona Maazel’s Woke Up Lonely 0


As I lost myself in Maazel’s gorgeous, dryly comic prose, it made me wonder about all the great love songs of the past: do we not write songs about the ones that come easy? Or do we hope that in capturing loneliness, as Maazel does so very well, we can better understand it, face it, and appreciate its possibilities?

April 12, 2013

Buoyant and Blue: On Jessica Soffer’s Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots 2


A novel about food becomes so much more than some simple story of domestic affirmation found in the kitchen, because, in the end, we always have Grandma’s recipe tin. Instead, it becomes a story of food’s very foundational and fluid place in our understanding of the world.

March 29, 2013

I Await The Devil’s Friend Request: On Social Media and Mary MacLane 15


What participation in social media comes down to, I think, is that either you have an instinct for broadcasting your life, or you don’t. Mary MacLane would have been a natural.

March 28, 2013

Men Handling Things: On Stuart Nadler’s Wise Men 0


I can’t say whether I was enjoying the book itself or just the true American, grand tradition of it all. Surely I’m reading a great book, I thought, a rich man with a diamond watch is staring at the ocean while his son looks on and doubts it all!

March 22, 2013

Stars Are Just Like Us: On Christine Sneed and Celebrity Disparity 2


As readers, we’ve become so jaded, so used to seeing celebrities crash and burn, perhaps even delighted to watch them crash and burn, that when they engage in something as unexceptional as adultery, we hardly care.

March 21, 2013

In the Wake of Speedboat: On Renata Adler’s 1976 Novel 2


Scrolling through news bits and status updates between passages of Speedboat, I’m floored by how the novel reads as a somewhat verbose Twitter feed. That is, verbose for Twitter. Succinct for anything else.