July 11, 2011

The Agony and the Agony: Suzanne Rivecca’s Death is Not an Option 1


Something has gone terribly wrong.

June 22, 2011

The Three Worlds of Jesse Ball’s The Curfew 3


Much of Ball’s writing takes place in worlds that are slightly off, where the rules of society have been changed, and both the characters in these worlds and we, the readers, aren’t entirely clear what the new rules are. I’ve never felt oriented in one of Ball’s novels, but I’m quite sure I’m not meant to.

June 20, 2011

Nom de Plume: Literary History and the Curatorial Principle 19


I see it as a book for these times and no other. Our particular moment is all about managing data rather than producing it; a theme is assigned, the material assiduously curated.

June 16, 2011

On the Desire to Be Well-Read: A Review of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction 21


The advice of many aesthetes turns the reader’s capacity for pleasure into just another test of his cultural status—and the effect of this kind of sly pressure is to make it more difficult to distinguish what we enjoy from what we think we ought to enjoy.

June 13, 2011

Tropical Storm: Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder 1


Patchett has written a Brazilian adventure tale, headed “down a river into the beating heart of nowhere,” the throttle on the boat—and on the novel—open full.

June 2, 2011

Kissing the Hems of Ghosts: Vanessa Veselka’s Zazen 5


Veselka gives her characters plenty of rope, and while some end up hanging themselves, others use it to climb upward instead.

May 31, 2011

Mind Control: David Eagleman’s Incognito 7


What we call the conscious mind, Eagleman argues, is far from center stage, and the more we try to find out who—or what—is actually in control of our brain, the more we find out there is, as Gertrude Stein said, “no there there.”

May 27, 2011

Zoo York Revisited: T.J. English’s The Savage City 3


In March 1986, my first winter in New York, I was mugged in a deserted parking lot a few blocks north of Madison Square Park while coming home from a party downtown. It’s a funny story, actually.

May 26, 2011

Under Water: Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists 0


The story that surrounds Johanna Skibsrud’s first novel is captivating. The Sentimentalists, published by Canada’s tiny Gaspereau Press in an initial print run of 800, was the surprise winner of the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize. And yet hype, of course, is a double-edged sword.