In the 1950s, artists worried about the concentration of power in hierarchies. They worried about the political effects of appeals to the authentic. Now we understand all too well that power functions pretty well in networks, too. You can have a very sophisticated theory of the self, and that won't stop power from going about its business. Power has not merely untoothed the language of the avant-garde, it has learned to speak it.
Kazuo Ishiguro's novels have for the last two decades frustrated expectations, and his decision to venture into the realm of legend this time is of a piece with the risks he's been taking all along. As he's explained many times to interviewers, the variation is a matter of maintaining his artistic vitality.
Several years ago (five, to be exact—my youngest had just taken her first steps) I became obsessed with questions of mothers and literature. I wanted a full accounting: mothers who wrote literature (and the logistics), literature about mothers and motherhood—not just books with mothers but books
The Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra was born in 1975, two years after the violent military coup that ousted Chile’s democratically elected, Socialist president, Salvador Allende. It would be impossible to overstate the shattering impact of that coup, not only on Chile but on the entire Left in
Women who make "good" choices are generally said to have self-respect. At the very least, our usual definition of the quality assumes that a woman make choices at all. Miranda July—whose characters are wimpish, lonely, and lacking in self-knowledge—does not seem preoccupied by self-respect of this conventional kind. Instead her characters wait, with various degrees of whimsical passivity, for their lives to change.
An essentially religious writer, Marilynne Robinson stands quite alone in this "unreligious age," as Iris Murdoch called it, in which we turn to art for an experience akin to prayer. With these novels, all of them wrought from theological concerns, Robinson has created a secular church of readers.
In 2011 Ben Lerner’s first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, was brought out by Coffee House Press, a Minneapolis independent, to wide and deserving if improbable praise. Improbable because of its provenance, but more so because its author, thirty-two at the time, was already a decorated poet, with
“How may I tell you of him?” Maecenas asks the historian Livy. They’re speaking about Maecenas’s friend Gaius Octavius (63 BC– AD 14), hailed as “Augustus” in John Williams’s novel of the same name, and that’s the question Augustus brilliantly ponders: how to tell about the man who could autocratically
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