Recent Articles

May 5, 2008

PEN World Voices Report: A Tribute to Robert Walser 0

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After four World Voices events in as many days (scaled down from a perhaps overly ambitious six), I was about ready to hang up my spurs. Nonetheless, I dragged myself back into midtown’s London-style drizzle for Saturday afternoon’s “Tribute to Robert Walser” – and was glad I did. Twentieth century German-language literature produced some of […]

May 4, 2008

The Early Days of Big Money: A Review of A. Alvarez’s The Biggest Game in Town 2

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The poker craze may have peaked, but it was a big thing there for a bit. About five years ago, ESPN’s prominent televising of the World Series of Poker and the emergence and proliferation of online poker sites where amateur card sharps could test their skills against other players around the globe fueled an explosion […]

May 4, 2008

PEN World Voices Report: Something to Hide – Writers and Artists Against the Surveillance State 0

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Among the core missions of International PEN is “the defense of writers and of freedom of expression around the world.” In the last two decades, as Salman Rushdie has been both its beneficiary and its champion, this mission has become increasingly visible. However, the artistic defense of freedom of expression is a tricky thing; political […]

May 3, 2008

PEN World Voices Report: The Art of Failure 0

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Late Thursday night, after several PEN events and many drinks, a European friend and I succumbed to the temptation to make sweeping generalizations about the state of literature in America and abroad. Most of our aperçus wouldn’t withstand scrutiny in the sober light of morning, but I liked his epiphanic declaration that one of the […]

May 1, 2008

PEN World Voices Report: Public Lives/Private Lives 0

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A crowd representing all ages, income brackets, and nationalities basking in the brilliant comedy of a Hungarian literary genius: isn’t this why one moves to the big city? Seduced by movies and periodicals (here Woody Allen and The New Yorker deserve much of the credit and/or blame), I came to New York a few years […]

May 1, 2008

Ask a Book Question (#59): Books for Recent Graduates 4

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Bryan wrote in with this question: I’m a 2007 graduate of Columbia. I majored in American Studies with a concentration in 20th century American literature. I’m a huge fan of the Millions. I’m attaching a recent reading list, if there’s any chance you’d be interested in giving a book recommendation [based on it], that would […]

April 30, 2008

The Amazon Push 3

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A few months ago, I wrote about some of the oddities of Amazon’s customer review system. I suggested that certain of Amazon’s “Top Reviewers” had become semi-professionalized, and that some five-star customer reviews reach readers the same way reviews in the Times (and on blogs) do: as part of a well-organized press push. A story […]

April 28, 2008

Tuesday on Fourth Avenue: Francisco Goldman, Anne Landsman, and Ceridwen Dovey 0

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Coinciding with the start of the PEN World Voices Festival, Tuesday’s installment of the Pacific Standard Fiction Series in Brooklyn features three internationally acclaimed novelists. Francisco Goldman (The Ordinary Seaman), Anne Landsman (The Rowing Lesson), and Ceridwen Dovey (Blood Kin) will read from works set in Guatemala, South Africa, and an unnamed dictatorship. In honor […]

April 28, 2008

Gutenberg Eulogies? 6

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Is there a “crisis in reading?” Last quarter’s Barnes & Noble conference call; the well-publicized demise of certain book review supplements and independent bookstores; the gripes of our editor friends; and a whiff of desperation around the marketing of literary fiction (typically referred to as “so tough” or “a hard sell”) would seem to confirm […]

April 26, 2008

Curiosities 0

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David Foster Wallace stranded on a desert island. Another reason to love Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley: his refreshingly enthusiastic take on “slacker fiction” and All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen, who, admittedly, “scarcely qualifies as a slacker.” Paul Auster was a protesting, fence-tearing, rioting crazy ’68er, too, it turns out. The […]