AS AN INSTITUTION, the family is in the curious position of being regarded as both crucial to human survival and inimical to human freedom. It bears a note of bondage down to its root; family, that wonderfully warm, nourishing-sounding word (it’s the echo of mammal, mammary, mama, I suspect), derives
When it comes to social thinking about families, there is such a thing as "American exceptionalism." Other Western countries tend to view people's life trajectories in light of their place in the class structure. But ever since the late-nineteenth century, Americans have typically attributed people's successes or failures to their family structures and values. This is, of course, a convenient way to reconcile our faith in individual achievement with the reality of racial and economic inequality.
The Men in My Life, Vivian Gornick’s 2008 collection of critical writing, begins with an essay on the nineteenth-century British novelist George Gissing. Gornick particularly admires his novel The Odd Women (1893). In the book’s feminist reformer, Rhoda Nunn, Gornick writes, “I see myself, and
WHAT MAKES A PERSON HERSELF? And what, if that person is an artist, makes her the particular artist that she has become? These questions are surely essential and also, on some level, unanswerable. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask them. Sally Mann—whose fierce and glorious images have made
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE is having a moment. Julianne Moore won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a sufferer in Still Alice. Glen Campbell was nominated for one, too, for the song he wrote about his Alzheimer’s that was featured in the documentary I’ll Be Me. Roz Chast won a National Book Critics
“ALL I WRITE ABOUT IS FAMILY,” Elizabeth Cox once remarked to Richard Yates, who had helped her with her first novel. “That’s all there is to write about,” Yates replied. The late Evan S. Connell might have disagreed: Though he wrote two masterpieces about family life in midcentury America, Mrs.
PEOPLE HAVE discussed their plans to procreate—or skipped the discussion altogether—under many circumstances, but Ben and Alex, characters from Ben Lerner’s novel 10:04, are, to my knowledge, the only two who have started planning their family while staring at a painting at the Metropolitan Museum
IN MASHA GESSEN’S The Brothers, the first full-length book on Tamerlan and Jahar Tsarnaev and accordingly the most complete, the two leads share no scenes and speak no lines to each other. They are never alone in a room. How could they be? Tamerlan’s death and Jahar’s imprisonment blocked our
In Washington Square, Henry James created a great bullying father who sought to control his daughter's destiny and prevent what he saw as a foolish marriage. In viewing his daughter as dull, Dr. Sloper missed what the reader of the novel began to see—Catherine Sloper was not merely sensitive but
Barbara Comyns was born in 1909, the fourth of six children, to a very eccentric mother and father who lived in a large house in a small English town called Bidford-on-Avon. On a map of England, this town appears to be at the exact center, about two hours outside London, and if you look more closely—say,