"We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. . . . We thought moving to India might be better, or going back to nursing school. Doing something with the handicapped or working with our hands." So begins
Somewhere between Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa and Alex Garland's The Beach lies Mischa Berlinski's debut novel, Fieldwork. With its exotic backdrop (the hill country of northern Thailand), dogged quest for meaning (the facts behind the mysterious murder of an American missionary), and
If a man in a hurry, carrying flowers, buys a ticket on a slow-moving streetcar bound for the train station, and the woman he's meeting is on a fast-moving train that will arrive a few minutes late, who will get to the station first? This unanswerable word problem serves as the premise of Dumitru
A mash-up of political farce and avant-garde bombast, the International Necronautical Society (INS), founded in London in 1999, put forth a parodic manifesto about death, announcing that it "is a type of space, which we intend to map, enter, colonise and, eventually, inhabit." One of the instrumental
André Aciman is our consummate Proustian. Even more than Roger Shattuck, who's championed Proust in scholarly works, or Alain de Botton, who's promoted Proustian self-help, Aciman has taken to heart the author's injunction to use In Search of Lost Time as a personal darkroom—to dip the negatives
Perhaps the chief draw of any postapocalyptic spectacle is the vast opportunity for plunder; Chris Adrian's medical millenarianism, however, envisions a band of survivors rather indisposed to such distraction. The Children's Hospital imagines a genre-exploding eschaton where the chief residual vice
Once dubbed a "sadistic moralist" by Newsweek, Michael Tolkin has been spinning tales about the ethically challenged in film (Deep Impact, The New Age, and The Rapture) and on the page (Among the Dead and Under Radar) for the past twenty years. But it was his memorable debut novel, The Player (1988),
In 1999 the Chilean-born Roberto Bolaño won, to the surprise of many, the coveted Premio Rómulo Gallegos (an award often considered to be the Nobel of the Americas) for his extraordinary novel Los detectives salvajes——a well-deserved recognition. For most of his writing life he had remained
Joshua Ferris's fiction reverses the daily grind—characters wake up at the office and gradually wind their way home, to a place they wouldn't have recognized at the beginning of the day. His novels are meditations on labor and alienation in contemporary America, stocked with characters for whom life is a disease at once mediated, ameliorated, and worsened by work.
Emily Gould bolted to local media fame seven years ago as a Gawker blogger. She wrote scathing posts about writers, celebrities, and anyone else who happened to come in for online scrutiny on a given day. She was funny. She was reckless. She was really good at being really mean. She was twentysomething and photogenic, and when she appeared on CNN, Jimmy Kimmel told her she had a decent chance of going to hell.
Everything Pasolini did, he did as a poet. But what was it, precisely, that Pasolini did? What Pasolini was thinking about is what now makes him seem—like so many products of the radical '60s and '70s—slightly dusty, as if from a time capsule. The deep aim of all his writing was as messy and outdated as utopia.
Nineteen years ago, at the age of twenty-six, the much-lauded Taiwanese novelist Qiu Miaojin killed herself. At the time of her death she was living in Paris, leading a lively and queer intellectual life very much like the narrator of her 161-page epistolary novel, Last Words from Montmartre. The sensational quality of the book's content in relation to its seeming parallels with Qiu Miaojin's life is an inextricable part of reading it.
The imaginative artist, who carries the resources of the poet and the psychic in his trick bag, is compelled to impose more variations on the real, whether past or present: lying, as Ralph Ellison once said, to get to the truth. It's through such bold wanderings through the American subconscious that African American writers such as Jeffery Renard Allen strengthen autonomy over the depictions of their own past.
When Anna Brundage, the heroine of Stacey D’Erasmo’s Wonderland, was three years old, her father sawed a train in half and pushed it over a cliff. It was 1972, and the art world was rocked: Critics declared that he had reinvented sculpture. A postcard of the gored, upended car became a dependable
Writing, like life, is a series of choices. Which word here, there; when to stop? Like Proust, whom she has translated, Lydia Davis writes the act of writing itself. It's not just that her narrators tend to be teachers or authors, though that's true; it's that her stories are filled with moments of crisis about how to carry on, or what word to put down next, and fears that it could all mean nothing in the end.
What does it mean to make an accounting of a past you can't fully remember? This elegiac dilemma is one of Karl Ove Knausgaard's primary subjects—the difference between how we think about life and its actual moment-by-moment reality. Time changes our perspective: The terrifying tyrant becomes the shrunken Lear; the large, animated rooms of our childhood become small and plain.
The narrator of Every Day Is for the Thief is a young Nigerian American on a trip home to Lagos. In this reissue of Teju Cole's first novel, originally published in Nigeria in 2007, the backdrop often feels like the foreground.