A noun followed by a colon and a claim to greatness—whether Coal: A Human History or Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, it's a formula with proven publishing legs. As these smartly packaged microhistories train their writers' full powers of research and analysis on undervalued or
Jami Attenberg's new novel, The Melting Season, begins with a familiar premise: a small-town girl leaves her problems (a broken marriage, a dysfunctional family, and a pregnant teenage sister) behind and sets out for Vegas with a suitcase full of cash. There she makes fast friends with another injured
Nick Flynn's new memoir, The Ticking Is the Bomb, is by turns, and often simultaneously, self-reflective and socially charged. A poet by training, Flynn writes short chapters with impressive agility and cultural command, drawing subtle analogies between Greek myths, zombie movies, photography,
When Tsutomu Yamaguchi died two weeks ago, at 93, he was eulogized as a star-crossed rarity: a man who lived through two atomic blasts, at Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. He was a man with very good luck, or very bad luck. It's hard to decide.
To complain that Americans don't read enough European fiction is to commit the mortal sin of extreme obviousness. The studied ignorance of literary fiction from anywhere besides the United States (and 99% of literary fiction from within the United States) has to be annoying to non-American authors,
There's an apocryphal tale that on the day jazz composer and bassist Charles Mingus died at 56 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, 56 gray whales beached themselves on the local shores in tribute. True or not, the story makes a kind of cosmic sense. Mingus's art and life seemed governed by a set of rules no one