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
There are a few constants in Jim Shepard's fiction. The first is disaster: war, divorce, scientific catastrophes, murder, acts of God. The second is primary-source research. Along with human drama, a Shepard story serves up all sorts of facts: about the Cenozoic Era, Japanese cinema, handgun specs...
In a career that has never quite stood still, Paula Fox has been a journalist, a teacher, a model, a machinist, and, most notably, the author of novels, memoirs, and more than twenty children's books. Her profile has risen over the past fifteen years, with writers such as Jonathan Franzen, David
Near the beginning of Swiss writer Peter Stamm's bleak new novel, Seven Years, ten-year-old Sophie innocently asks for someone to fetch her a glass of orange juice at the gallery opening her parents, Alex and Sonia, have taken her to. Irritated, Alex snaps at his daughter and tells her to stop ordering
Lynne Tillman's characters inhabit language the way others live in rooms and cities. It's not that they are made only of words—all literary characters are—or that they don't have their own versions of material longings, needs, attachments, and obstructions. What's different is that they are
Classic noir repetition, impasse, entanglement, and terminus. The elegantly brutal, deadpan crime fictions of Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942–1995), created in the reverberation of the events of May 1968 in Paris, exploded those distress signals into static and silence.
In an interview published in the winter 2010 issue of the Paris Review, Jonathan Franzen said to Stephen Burn, "I've never felt less self-consciously preoccupied with language than I did when I was writing Freedom. Over and over again, as I was producing chapters, I said to myself, 'This feels nothing