David Mitchell has a theory of history. Roughly, this is it: Progress is neither bad nor good but circular and inescapable. It will lead humankind, inexorably, off the cliff, yet you can count on humankind (just as inexorably) to pick itself back up again.
Marlon James’s epic and dizzying third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is anything but brief and describes far more than seven killings. The book’s two main backdrops are Kingston, Jamaica, during the political warfare of the late 1970s and New York City during the crack epidemic of the
As the founding member of the prolific, fiercely beloved band the Mountain Goats, John Darnielle is something of an expert regarding the plight of outcasts. Any outcast status for his new novel, however, has been lately eliminated: Wolf in White Van was just nominated for the National Book Award.
Given the thousands of pages that James Ellroy has published, the seven books that precede Perfidia in this super-series about the Los Angeles underworld, and the many critics who’ve chimed in over the years, a review of Ellroy’s new book, the longest one yet, the one that starts tugging the
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.
The best parts of Richard Powers’s new novel sound like many of the best parts of his other ten novels, which is to say that they don’t sound like novels at all: They are lyrical, serious explications of difficult, technical, even academic subjects, with plenty of real-world examples and proper
In several recent novels the succinct, startling prose of Jean Echenoz has achieved the condition of a highly durable, transparent membrane, something like the trompe l’oeil mesh often used now to mask scaffolding on building facades under repair. Imposing a Beckettian principle that drastically
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?