Claudia Rankine's Citizen is an anatomy of American racism in the new millennium, a slender, musical book that arrives with the force of a thunderclap. In the most powerful passages, Rankine reports from the site of her own body, detailing the racist comments she's been subjected to, the "jokes," the judgments.
We now see a new kind of migration: that of the cosmopolitan, the emigrant, the exile pushed out into the world, spreading away from the imperial center. The protagonists begin in the metropoles and often end up in the provinces. Consummate insiders—bankers, lawyers, doctors, professors—they find themselves on the outside. In a state of seemingly endless movement, this new figure finds him- or herself a perennial stranger.
Much of Rachel Cusk's work seeks to describe scenes objectively, and both the benefits and limits of that objectivity are visible in Outline. Cusk's restraint, while elegant, also comes across as withholding.
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 The deep aim of all his writing was as messy and outdated as utopia.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.