August 19, 2011

A Morality Play Where the Moral Keeps Changing: Notes on the Library of America’s At the Fights 3


It’s hard to love the sport without being, also, deeply aware of what a bestial exhibition it is. It’s uncivilized, dirty, corrupt, and ought to be against the law. It’s a racket that refuses to be rehabilitated, and a volatile, exhilarating vice.

August 17, 2011

Vive la Revolution! Horacio Castellanos Moya’s Tyrant Memory 0


Our Marxian tradition always returns to this basic assumption: that when societies are overturned, we who are formed in society are overturned as well. In Tyrant Memory, Moya’s counter-lesson becomes apparent: wherever heights are found in the glory of revolutionary action, they do not last. There is no permanent revolution.

August 12, 2011

I Could Show You Memories To Rival Berlin in the Thirties: Christopher Isherwood and The Berlin Stories 4


To understand Isherwood is to understand his infatuation with liars, which I think makes it reasonable to ask whether he himself was lying, or at least half-lying in a way he could find almost believable. But exactly what is he lying about and why do we as readers long to be taken in?

August 11, 2011

The Ties That Bind: David Whitehouse’s Bed 0


We’re introduced to the Edes on Day Seven Thousand Four Hundred and Eighty-Three — that is, the number of days since Malcolm, after going on a real birthday bender, crawled into his childhood bed and, at the tender age of twenty-five, refused to leave.

August 9, 2011

Ham Steaks and Manstarch: Nicholson Baker Returns to the Sex Beat 4


House of Holes is a carefully constructed contrivance, a vehicle for exploring a fantasy that could exist only in a country that’s both obsessed with sex and deeply conflicted about it. In short, it’s every pubescent boy’s wet dream. But is it good fiction?

August 5, 2011

A Surrealist’s Guide: Christopher Boucher’s How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive 3


Christopher Boucher’s strange and dazzling debut novel concerns a young man whose girlfriend gives birth to a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle.

July 29, 2011

A Thousand and One Knights: George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons 12


Seabiscuit wasn’t about a horse. You don’t have to like football to love Friday Night Lights. A great narrative is great in any genre, and A Song of Ice and Fire is perhaps the most compelling, fully realized narrative in modern literature.

July 25, 2011

Edouard Levé’s ‘Suicide’ and Edouard Levé’s Suicide 4


To write a book about a suicide, to call it Suicide, and to then take your own life before its publication is, whatever else it is, a way of exerting an overpowering influence over how that work is received.

July 22, 2011

The Second Life of Irmgard Keun 6


The German novelist Irmgard Keun’s life was the stuff of fiction: she was a best-selling debut novelist at twenty-six, published a second bestseller a year later, was blacklisted by the Nazi regime and in exile by the spring of 1936. She was possessed of a spectacular talent. She managed to convey the political horrors she lived through with the lightest possible touch, even flashes of humor.

July 20, 2011

What Ever Happened to the New Atheism? 26


Five years ago, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens launched a jihad against religion. But their colleague A.C. Grayling’s new “Humanist Bible” suggests something surprising: maybe the quarrel wasn’t really with God after all.