“WHEN MOST PRETTY GIRLS smile at you, you feel terrific,” Mary McCarthy’s friend Dwight Macdonald once said, but “when Mary smiles at you, you look to see if your fly is open.” Her 1963 novel, The Group, has the same effect. McCarthy thought of the book as “a kind of mock-chronicle” rebutting
“The governess’s maid and Madame Diver’s maid have come up from second class to help with the baggage and the dogs. Mlle. Bellois will superintend the hand-luggage, leaving the Sealyhams to one maid and the pair of Pekinese to the other. . . . Presently from the van would be unloaded four
IT WASN’T SO LONG AGO that commentators on all sides were proclaiming the death of neoliberalism. How could the free-market credo survive the pounding it took in the wake of the 2008 financial crash? Tolerably well, it seems. Even though the calamities wrought during the financial meltdown will
Stanley Elkin’s The Magic Kingdom is about a man’s efforts to take a group of terminally ill children to Disney World. Published in 1985, it is about as unsentimental and hilarious a chronicle of the indignities of life as I’ve ever encountered. The language and wit of the narration, and the
I have on my desk before me a spine-cracked paperback copy of Cynthia Ozick’s collection of stories The Pagan Rabbi. It seems to have shared close quarters at some point with a broken pen, since the edges of its pages are gilded with blue ink. The cover depicts the title story’s eponymous
The problem with Occupy Wall Street, an investment banker wrote to me, is that financial mechanisms are very complicated, and the protesters don’t understand them. On the day that the New York occupation of Zuccotti Park spread to Washington Square, another visitor from the finance world looked
Victor Serge (1890–1947) was a Russian revolutionary born in Belgium who wrote in French and died in Mexico. His parents had fled from their native Russia to Western Europe in the 1880s during the wave of repression that followed the assassination of Czar Alexander II by bomb-throwing radicals.
Every year, it seems, the guardians of consensus wheel out a new scapegoat to blame for the lengthening economic crisis. The most recent candidate is the tax-dodging population of southern Europe. Not the banking and corporate elites, of course, whose shady income accounting seems to be beyond
The other day at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Zuccotti Park, I picked up a tract produced by the group prole.info that makes a punchy, graphically illustrated case for working-class revolution: “At work,” write the anonymous authors, “we are under the control of our bosses .
TO START WITH, shouldn’t it be called the “better-seller list”? I suppose that doesn’t quite sing, but how can you have more than one best seller at a time? However you refer to it, the list is a disaster for literary and general culture. This isn’t to say that good books don’t become best