The Fugitives is the story of a writer who can’t, or won’t—always a fuzzy distinction—write any more. By the time we meet Alexander Mulligan, his dead-ended third novel is years late. Off the page, things seem to be wrapping up all too quickly. He has left his wife for his mistress, then left his
Along with its consumers, American popular culture in the 1950s became both besotted with the abundant possibilities set loose by the Second World War and discomfited by the looming prospect that this bounty, along with all of humanity, could at any moment become devastated by nuclear oblivion. The
Paul Beatty’s subversive parody of race relations in America, winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize, taunts, jostles, and makes so many inappropriate noises at whatever passes for America's Ongoing Dialogue on Race that it's practically begging to be batter-fried in acrimony and censure.
It’s always pleasing when a strange and distinctive novelist comes outfitted with a name that she might have invented for one of her strange and distinctive characters, and still more pleasing when the actual facts of her personal history seem to have sprung directly from the cortical folds of her
In A Legacy, first published in 1956, Sybille Bedford writes about a Germany in the years before the First World War that had almost disappeared even as it seemed to be in full bloom. This world of privilege and entitlement and eccentricity is presented as normal and natural and at a stage of rich
Long before college students on American or British campuses began signing up for courses in postcolonial literature, there were people from the colonies present in the imperial cities. In London Calling (2003), Sukhdev Sandhu writes that in 1900, during the “heyday of an empire often assumed to have
When crack cocaine enters a story, we usually brace ourselves for a downfall. The tales of those who have fallen prey to the drug are so familiar that they have taught even nonusers to consider themselves experts. Many speak knowingly of the crack addict—gaunt, unkempt, willing to do anything for
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 in