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Arts, Books The Tyranny of the New

The Tyranny of the New

Click here for Nathan Ihara's list of perfectly aged summer reading. Last month much ink was spilled (and pixels burnt) on Bill Clegg's Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man. It's a blow-by-blow memoir about his monthlong crack bender in 2005 that temporarily cost him his job as a...…
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Arts, Books Out With the New, In With the Old

Out With the New, In With the Old

Click here for Nathan Ihara's feature The Tyranny of the New. After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1931) by Jean RhysIf your bedroom has ever felt too small, your wine too cheap, your face too old, your family as strangers, and your love affairs mere figments of your imagination, then Jean Rhys'...…
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Arts, WLS <i>How Fiction Works</i>: King James and the Battle for the Novel

How Fiction Works: King James and the Battle for the Novel

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Arts, Books The Human Comedy: Reintroducing Hans Fallada

The Human Comedy: Reintroducing Hans Fallada

Rudolph Ditzen took the pen name Hans Fallada in 1913 to protect his family — his father was a respected judge — from embarrassment at his first angst-ridden novel. He took “Hans” from the folktale of “Lucky Hans,” the story of a foolish farmer who barters away all his possessions,...…
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Arts, Books Marilynne Robinson's <i>Home</i>: Making Light of Life

Marilynne Robinson's Home: Making Light of Life

Marilynne Robinson is a genius of exegesis. There’s a rare quality of contemplation in her writing, an intensity of speculation concerning both Biblical and secular phenomena that seems lacking in many contemporary novels and, I dare say, in much religious thinking as well. A gross generalization perhaps, but novels seem...…
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Arts, Books <i>The Drop Edge of Yonder</i>: Rudy Wurlitzer Rides Nowhere Again

The Drop Edge of Yonder: Rudy Wurlitzer Rides Nowhere Again

It’s hard to figure out if Rudolph “Rudy” Wurlitzer’s new novel, The Drop Edge of Yonder, is newfangled or old hat, a relic or a revolution. In many ways, it feels like it’s being published 40 years too late. Living large and free in the Wild West, altering one’s consciousness...…
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Arts, WLS

The Brief, Wondrous Tournament of Books

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Arts, Books <i>The Lost City</i>; <i>The Voyage of the Short Serpent</i>; the Wonder, the Horror

The Lost City; The Voyage of the Short Serpent; the Wonder, the Horror

I was 13 years old, romping around in the ruins of Machu Picchu, treating the terraces and temples as my personal playground, when I discovered a small hole beneath the Temple of the Condor. Groping with my hands, I went down a short tunnel into a lightless and cold chamber...…
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Arts, Books Richard Price on Cynicism, <i>The Wire</i> and his <i>Lush Life</i>

Richard Price on Cynicism, The Wire and his Lush Life

Richard Price grew up in the Bronx projects when they were a completely different animal: racially diverse, Jews, Italians, blacks working and living mostly in peace, everyone expecting the next generation to move on, move up, move out. In 1974, still in his early 20s, Price published The Wanderers, a...…
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Arts, Books Tyranny of the Natural: David P. Barash's <I>Natural Selections</I>

Tyranny of the Natural: David P. Barash's Natural Selections

David P. Barash grew up in Long Island, New York, and he loved the beaches in winter, when the people were gone and it was just him and the animals, many of which he ended up bringing home as pets. "If it walked, crawled, wriggled or flew, I had it,"...…
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Arts, Books

Who Needs Dreams?

Let me get the praise out of the way: The Paris Review Interviews Volume II and Tin House Books’ The World Within, two recent collections of interviews with famous writers, are a literary treasure trove, a smorgasbord for the intellect, a cornucopia of language. Anyone who likes to read, write,...…
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Arts, Books

Tree of Smoke: Denis Johnson’s Vietnam

Johnson has always been a writer fascinated with religion in its many guises. His characters — flawed, sinful, starved and drifting — are ravenous for moments of transcendence and clarity. Like the writers of the Bible itself, Johnson is masterful at crafting an atmosphere of profound mystery, pierced at times...…
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Arts, Books Tell No Tales

Tell No Tales

I only know one veteran of the Iraq war, my friend’s younger brother. He saw heavy action in the Sunni Triangle and was the only member of his patrol to escape conflict without serious injury. I stayed up drinking with him and his sister one night, and he started telling...…
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Arts, Books Lydia Davis&#146; Short, Weird Fiction

Lydia Davis’ Short, Weird Fiction

“My stories are sometimes closer to poems or meditations,” Davis admits, “but often there is at least a little narrative in them.” This narrative element, however, seems to recede further into the background with each new collection. In Varieties of Disturbance, her most recent book of fiction since winning a...…
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Arts, WLS

Miranda July's Childlike, Unchildlike Art

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Arts, Books John Banville Takes on Benjamin Black

John Banville Takes on Benjamin Black

{mosimage}“A strange phenomenon. Philip Larkin wouldn’t do public poetry readings because he said he wasn’t prepared to go about the country pretending to be himself. Well now that I’m writing under a pseudonym I have to pretend to be two people.”I’m talking to John Banville, the Irish novelist and critic,...…
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Arts, Books The Joy of Failure

The Joy of Failure

{mosimage} About halfway through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck’s mountebank comrade the “duke” becomes outraged when a circus audience mocks his delivery of Hamlet. “The duke said these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn’t come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was low comedy — and maybe something ruther worse than low...…
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Arts, Books A Severed Head Awakes

A Severed Head Awakes

Ever since her death by guillotine in 1793, writers have been sticking their hands up inside Marie Antoinette’s bloody stump to use her pretty head as a puppet, shaping her one way or another. For a long time her depictions fell squarely in either the “devil” or “saint” camps, but...…
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Arts, Books Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories

You can’t sleep. The next night, you still can’t sleep. You don’t know it yet, but you will never sleep again. You shut your eyes, you toss and turn, you even have wisps of dreams, but you never feel rested. An EEG of your brain shows that though you occasionally...…
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Arts, Books Pretty Mysterious

Pretty Mysterious

When it comes to most art, I’m an advocate of lowering the bar. Call me conservative or simply pessimistic, but I’d much rather watch someone sail gracefully over a low ribbon than witness yet another hapless high jumper smack his poor forehead on that awful obstacle, The Next Great American...…
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