April 18, 2014

Transylvanians Gone Wild: On Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy 0


This might not be the thing one wants to hear before embarking on a 1,500 page quest, but the trilogy is marked by a narrative desultoriness that applies to both its human and political dramas. The novels are in a some ways about widespread distraction and inaction in the face of an impending catastrophe.

April 15, 2014

A Story is Worth a Thousand Data Points: Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys 3


Surely, high-frequency trading is more complicated than Lewis’s portrait, but if he hadn’t found a way to boil down this highly technical issue to an emotionally satisfying tale of good vs. evil, most of us would never have known it existed.

April 14, 2014

Literature on the Installment Plan: A Review Of Best European Fiction 2014 1


One possible implication of The Best European Fiction series is not only that Europe is going the way of America, but that the stories in it already represent the kind of writing that isn’t possible in America anymore.

April 7, 2014

Fellow Creatures: Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams 1


Leslie Jamison is a different kind of listener. She’s one willing to implicate herself and ask the tough questions about her (and our) capacity to understand each other.

April 2, 2014

Lost In The Sierras: On Michelle Huneven’s Off Course 0


Off Course casts a very strong spell. The fairy tale theme is pervasive and like all good fairy tales, there is a sense of unease, of darkness unseen.

March 24, 2014

Guerilla Grandma: On Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World 4


Set in the New York art world, The Blazing World tells the story of Harriet Burden, an accomplished, middle-aged artist so frustrated by her lack of stature that she arranges for three younger male artists to show her work as their own.

March 12, 2014

The Lightest Touch: On Robert Walser’s A Schoolboy’s Diary 6


In a world where attention spans are getting shorter by the minute, Walser’s micro-sketches may yet drag him out of obscurity and into the limelight.

March 11, 2014

Blood Will Out: Walter Kirn Brings Us News of Ourselves 1


When Walter Kirn asks Gerhartsreiter, over prison phone, what the key to manipulating people is, he says, “I think you know.” Only when Kirn concedes this does Gerhartsreiter give him an answer: “Vanity, vanity, vanity.”

March 5, 2014

Descendant of Fear: On Scott Stossel’s My Age of Anxiety 2


Life for Scott Stossel has been a gauntlet of morbid what-ifs: what if I pass out, lose control of my bowels, bolt from the podium in the midst of a speech? To keep such mayhem at bay, he’s medicated himself with bourbon, scotch, gin, and vodka. By prescription, he has taken Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, Imipramine, Wellbutrin, Nardil, Thorazine, Zoloft, Effexor, Paxil, and Propranolol.

March 5, 2014

Hot Beats and High Genre: Submergence by J.M. Ledgard 1


High genre is fiction that allows you to investigate an individual text, because it is full of its own traits and merits, whether in its characterizations, its plot, or its prose. Regular genre, I suppose, is something you can only talk about as a family — tracing the themes shared collectively among its members. High genre will always be vulnerable to the taint of its lower peers, because it shares the equipment, the same beats. This is why people are drawn to True Detective, and yet can accept assertions that it is just another dead naked lady show.