November 14, 2011

Porn, Lies, and Videotape: On Russell Banks’ Lost Memory of Skin 2


Lost Memory is a novel of the ruin and possible renewal of the Garden of Eden, where “maybe the Internet is the Snake and pornography is the forbidden fruit.”

November 7, 2011

Bitesized Backwoods Bloodbath: On Charles Frazier’s Nightwoods 3


Nightwoods is not only grippingly cinematic, it’s also unabashedly movie-ready, no less so than Cold Mountain was.

November 2, 2011

William Kennedy’s Long Dry Spell Ends with Chango’s Beads and Two-Toned Shoes 3


Along the way there will be a duel, a failed assassination attempt, gun-running, Santeria rituals, kidnapping, torture, scorching sex, and, finally, a coveted interview with Fidel Castro. The storytelling has the irresistible pull of a riptide.

November 1, 2011

Magical Thinking: Joan Didion’s Blue Nights 3


In Blue Nights, Didion is once again following her time-tested formula of setting out a fondly held personal mythos and then smashing it, except that this time the mythos is her own vision of herself as a good mother.

October 27, 2011

When Film Mattered: Pauline Kael’s The Age of Movies 11


Pauline Kael argued about the movies as though her life depended on it. But that’s not what makes this an essential read for all the uninitiated, nor is it her depth of knowledge, her wit, or her ability to turn a line; it’s that she was so often right.

October 26, 2011

A Novelist Unmoored from Himself: Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 15


1Q84 is Murakami’s finest work: nuanced, brilliant, gripping, philosophical but never tendentious, self-assured, cleverly post-modern yet authentic, and possessed of a haunting surrealism that by this point surely deserves its own adjective: Murakamian?

October 25, 2011

Genius At Work: Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods 13


Shout it from the rooftops, people! Helen DeWitt is back!

October 24, 2011

The Last Slacker: Colson Whitehead’s Zone One 4


In Zone One, as in the original Vietnam-era Living Dead movies, the underlying message seems to be that there is something very destructive in our culture…and it’s spreading.

October 21, 2011

The Impermanence of Memory: Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child 5


There’s something so grim about the idea that even books will be forgotten: memory is fickle, sometimes faulty, but shouldn’t something printed and bound hold more permanence than that?

October 19, 2011

Wanting it Bad: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides 4


On its face, The Marriage Plot appears to be a novel that mentions a lot of novels without talking about any of them. These facile, knowing references disguise the sly ways that this novel engages with its predecessors.