March 16, 2012

The Crushing Beauty of Nescio’s Amsterdam Stories 5


Nescio examines painters, writers, poets, and thinkers at various stages of their lives. We see them full of the irrational passion of youth, crippled by the frustration of middle age in a world that refused to change, conflicted about the success of their bitterest work, and settling into the spiritual acceptance only available to those who can reflect on an entire life.

March 15, 2012

Everything I Write is True, But So What?: Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait 5


If you’re looking for a way to ruin a perfectly good first date, do the following: lean forward in your chair and, gazing urgently across the dinner table into the eyes of the near-perfect stranger sitting opposite, ask them to tell you something true about themselves.

March 14, 2012

Fleeing Forward: On César Aira’s Varamo 7


It becomes obvious that Aira is not merely using Varamo’s story as a guidebook describing his literary method, but rather that Aira is mocking these radical ideas of textual production in the same sentences in which he is defending them.

March 14, 2012

The Efficient Distribution of Divine Breath: Gonçalo M. Tavares’ Joseph Walser’s Machine 3


“In thirty years’ time, if not before, [Tavares] will win the Nobel Prize, and I’m sure my prediction will come true… Tavares has no right to be writing so well at the age of 35. One feels like punching him.”

March 13, 2012

Thinking Again: Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child I Read Books 9


Robinson includes almost zero references to TV, movies, Facebook, celebs, or anything to do with pop culture. Her lonesome distance from the mainstream is eccentric, but it’s also what gives her essays their strange power to diagnose America’s discontents.

March 12, 2012

Speaking of Anne Frank… 0


When we — and by “we” here I naturally mean Next-Big-Thing Jewish authors — talk about Anne Frank, we seem to be invoking a wide swath of anxieties, a whole megillah of insecurities, real and imagined angst that has everything and nothing to do with Anne Frank herself.

March 7, 2012

Fractured World: Hari Kunzru’s Gods Without Men 2


At its center are Jaz and Lisa Matharu, he Sikh, she Jewish, and their severely autistic son, Raj. When the boy vanishes in the Mojave Desert, the parents are eventually accused of murder. Around them, Kunzru weaves a fiendish web of plots and subplots. The effect is exhilarating.

March 6, 2012

A New Salvation: Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists 1


A main tenet of de Botton’s thinking is that we should allow ourselves to be transported by secular art and culture, to be moved by it as wholly as religious people are by the Bible or the Koran.

March 5, 2012

Dance in Purgatory: László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango 1


Krasznahorkai is obsessed as much with the extremes of language as he is with the extremes of thought, with the very limits of people and systems in a world gone mad.

February 22, 2012

Arrested Development: Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan 17


I’ve been thinking lately about adulthood. When it begins, what expectations we might reasonably have of those just entering through its gates, and how we represent it in our fiction.