Among those who consider themselves serious readers, it's seen as infra dig to treat literature as self-help. Fiction is not there to teach us how to live or to help us imagine different ways out of our mundane personal difficulties. Nabokov is stern on this in his Lectures on Literature: "Only
Transit, Rachel Cusk's cerebral and very charismatic new novel, begins like so many of the best stories: with an act of foolishness. Our narrator, fragile, aptly named Faye, goes into debt to buy a crumbling flat. She sends her children to live with their father and embarks on an expensive renovation,
When you sit down to read a review, as you are doing right now (unless you are standing—in which case, please sit down and take a minute), you rarely have a sense of where the critic is writing from: what time of day it is, what she has eaten, what else she has just read or seen, what's on her mind.
Part of the suspense in reading Hari Kunzru's astringent, transfixing White Tears comes in wondering when, or if, it's going to stumble into becoming the very thing it's trying to subvert: a sentimental paean to black musical authenticity that gets its back up about white folks' egregious and (
Woe to anyone picking up this slim collection who, steered wrong by its title, expects suburban-book-club fodder or ecstatic, dance-like-no-one's-watching self-affirmation. Deb Olin Unferth's sophomore volume of stories is more a cauldron of simmering desperation than a sisterhood of traveling pants.
Early in Ill Will, Dan Chaon's most recent work of acutely turned literary fiction in crime-fiction drag, Dustin and his wife, Jill, announce to each other that they have some big news they need to share. Jill goes first, informing Dustin she has a tumor the size of a grapefruit, which the reader
Certain appetites admit of no satiation. To satisfy them provisionally is only to hasten their resurgence: First comes the ache of expectation, then the diminishment of gratification, then the ache returns. So where does enjoyment fit in? It is at most a sliver, slotted between parallel lacks. In
Early in his remarkable How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013), Mohsin Hamid advanced an idea familiar to readers of nineteenth-century fiction: Novels should teach readers how to dress, address a member of the opposite sex, and elevate one's standing in society. In other words, the novel could
Almost all of the characters in George Saunders's first novel are ghosts who haunt Oak Hill cemetery, where their bodies are buried, and the book is told almost wholly in their competing voices. It's like a play in that it is mostly dialogue, but the novel's idiosyncratic spelling and typography make
Like many authors—Charles Bukowski, Kathy Acker, Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand, Philip K. Dick, to name a few—who have attracted cultish followings, H. P. Lovecraft has a biography that feels essential to and inextricable from his work's singular vision. In Lovecraft's case that biography is almost unbelievably