The known risks of laughter, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, include dislocated jaws, cardiac arrhythmia, urinary incontinence, emphysema, and spontaneous perforation of the esophagus. None of this, I suspect, will be news to readers of Lorrie Moore, who has never taken laughter lightly. In her work, humor is always costly and fanged.
One night in Naples a number of years ago, the mother of an old friend who’d recently expatriated herself to southern Italy from Florence invited us over for a small dinner party. A worldly and glamorous figure under normal circumstances, that night she had her arm in a sling and apologized repeatedly
In 1999, Jenny Offill published her first novel, Last Things, written in the voice of a girl caught between her passive scientist father and her mother, an increasingly unstable fabulist who takes her daughter on the run to nowhere in particular. Startlingly assured in inhabiting a child’s perspective,
A conundrum informs Olivia Laing's heartfelt and melancholy alcoholic travelogue: Why, in America especially, are the production of literature and the consumption of destructive quantities of alcohol so intimately intertwined? Which came first, the bottle or the typewriter?
Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel A Wrinkle in Time—one of the best-loved and best-selling children’s books of the past sixty years—was initially rejected by at least two dozen publishers. The story goes that later on, whenever L’Engle attended a literary event, she would carry the rejection
Five years ago, anticipating the birth of my first child, I went to the hospital (my wife came along, incidentally) with only one book tucked into the suitcase: P. G. Wodehouse’s Lord Emsworth and Others (hereafter L.E.A.O.). Its very title suggested grab-baggery, lighter-than-light reading—just
What do we make of the adjective poetic when applied to prose fiction? While meant as praise, the modifier often sways backhandedly—as eclectic does for a menu—warning that what’s ahead may prove puzzling at best or downright indigestible at worst. Certainly the description indicates the presence
When I was in Chile in the summer of 2001 I stupidly asked a taxi driver, in my bad Spanish, if Pinochet were dead. “No,” he said, and by the way he looked over his shoulder I could see the question made him nervous. “No, he is still alive.” He showed me the National Stadium as we drove
The insanity of ideology—including religious fundamentalism—is the subject of James Meek’s best-selling 2005 novel The People’s Act of Love. Set in 1919 in a desolate corner of Siberia, the story coheres around a battalion of Czech soldiers waiting patiently for the Red Army to come and finish them
By now, we know the George Saunders tool kit: his favored verbs, such as to “wonk.” His stylistic tics, such as “such as.” The arbitrarily capitalized phrases, copyrighted and trademarked: I CAN SPEAK! TM And we know the concerns those nouns and verbs betray: the encroachment of advertising