No one has done the voice inside the head, ever present as we dice and chop life’s minutiae into apposite syllables— that “murmur, now precise as the headwaiter’s”—so accurately as Samuel Beckett. He remains the master of depicting mental paralysis, registering with circular syntax (there
“Predictably—and understandably— more pressing problems than saving dirt usually carry the day,” writes David R. Montgomery. But as his new book, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, details, we are losing the brown stuff far, far too quickly. Unlike maritime dead zones and radical climate change,
Ernest Jones had the urge to stand out. A small man, he learned early how to make himself visible through his bearing, his clothes, his mannerisms. And he learned how to distinguish himself—no ordinary Jones, he!—through the quality of his voice and intensity of his gaze. By the time he finished
Something odd becomes apparent as you make your way through Morrissey's best-selling new memoir. Yes, he sings on behalf of those brutalized by the world and its bullies. But he also admires and aspires to a certain sort of brutish ruthlessness. There's a consistent attraction to masculine hardness running through his life, and his songs reveal a fascination with criminals, boxers, hooligans.
Flannery O'Connor's readers either revere her fiction because it's immersed in the mystery of Christianity or admire the work in spite of this. A Prayer Journal will naturally be embraced by the first group. But the book should also appeal to those who find this writer's concern with "the action of grace" a puzzling aesthetic curiosity—because the prayer journal is also the journal of a writer scouting her own cosmology and beginning to discern its grand and peculiar design in her art.
The germ of Gary Shteyngart’s honest, poignant, hilarious new memoir, Little Failure, was planted in 1996, when he was a recent college graduate, living in Manhattan with “a ponytail, a small substance-abuse problem, and a hemp pin on his cardboard tie,” his novelist dreams still out in front of
In July at the Manchester International Festival, I saw a preview of Matthew Barney's seven-part film opera River of Fundament, loosely based on Norman Mailer's 1983 novel Ancient Evenings. Here was the appropriately bizarre second coming of Norman Mailer: celebrity laden, anally fixated, overlong (it's said that the film will be five hours in full when it premieres in February), and very expensive.
Two impassioned new books, Rebecca Mead's ode to Middlemarch and Wendy Lesser's Why I Read, are convincing love letters to the act of reading. Both authors thrill with their insights, but are also conversational enough to encourage us to formulate our own critical responses—and to participate in a larger literary conversation.
In the spring of 1947, when German-émigré film scholar Siegfried Kracauer published his groundbreaking history of Weimar cinema, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, theater critic Eric Bentley accused him, in the pages of the New York Times, of being “led into
In Promise Land, Jessica Lamb-Shapiro recounts her efforts to conquer one of her multiple phobias by attending a support group called Freedom to Fly. The group’s course, led by a psychologist, met at the Westchester airport and culminated in a round-trip flight to Boston. Lamb-Shapiro secretly had
I always used to feel sorry for myself, having suffered four debilitating episodes of clinical depression and many years of moderate-to-severe dysthymia. No longer. In fact, I feel rather fortunate not to be Scott Stossel, whose lifetime of psychic agony—suffering is too weak a word—is chronicled in excruciating, enthralling detail in My Age of Anxiety.
Hilton Als knows how to make an entrance, and the thirteen essays collected in White Girls all jump off spectacularly. His lead sentence for "White Noise," on Eminem: "It's outrageous, this white boy not a white boy, this nasal sounding harridan hurling words at Church and State backed by a 4/4 beat." The opening lines from "You and What Army?," told from the perspective of Richard Pryor's older sister: "Some famous people get cancer. That's a look."