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David L. Ulin

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Wordster

It may be the most interesting ongoing literary project in America, Shelley Jackson’s “Skin.” The idea has a simple elegance: to take a short story and tattoo it, one word at a time, on the bodies of 2,000-plus volunteers. Each potential participant — or “word,” as Jackson calls them —......

To Succeed, Must We Secede?

The morning after George W. Bush's re-election, I became a secessionist. It's a matter of instantaneous revelation, like looking at the face of God. All of a sudden, I see the solution to all the irreconcilable differences that have divided the nation: We need a constitutional divorce. And where better......
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The Science of Sex

Photo by Garik Gyurjyan T.C. Boyle’s 10th novel, The Inner Circle, revolves around the figure of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who in the 1940s and 1950s established the Kinsey Sex Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington. It’s also a vivid character study of Kinsey’s fictional assistant, John Milk, a naif who......
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Reality Show

Illustration by Pamela Jaeger When, in a recent report on the decline of reading, the National Endowment for the Arts defined literature as “fiction, poetry, and drama,” it left no room for Lawrence Weschler, who may be the finest writer in the United States, despite having never worked in any......
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Tricky Deck

Greg Palast’s The Joker’s Wild is a card game with an agenda — like the infamous U.S. Military deck of most wanted Iraqis, by which it was inspired. Featuring a rogues’ gallery of politicians, insiders and power brokers (the Bushes, the bin Ladens, Jim Baker, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pat Robertson, Ken......
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Eastside/Westside Story

©Alex Webb/Magnum Photos Adam Langer’s Crossing California has the quality of a time capsule, an attempt to preserve an era past. Unfolding from November 1979 to January 1981 — the span of the Iran hostage crisis — Langer’s first novel takes place in the Chicago neighborhood of West Rogers Park,......
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Minot Family Values

I’ve got a set of cocktail napkins that features a drawing of a woman above a word balloon declaring: “If I’d have known he was going to be a writer, I would have been a better parent.” This could be the motto of the Minot clan, which has spawned not......
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Underground Man

Illustration by Tra Selthrow When David MacKenzie set out to film Alexander Trocchi’s 1954 novel Young Adam, he wasn’t interested in homage so much as a project that might evoke the poetic bleakness of Scotland’s seagoing canals. This makes for an unintended irony, since the Glasgow-born Trocchi, who died in......
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The Sound and the Fury

Illustration by Tra Selhtrow For anyone who grew up reading Creem and Crawdaddy in the 1970s, when rock & roll still seemed like it could change everything, Lester Bangs was an unofficial avatar, the rock critic’s rock critic, his ability to make connections (who else would open a piece on......
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Toro, Toro, Toro!

Framed as a backdoor exposé, Mark Sundeen’s The Making of Toro purports to tell the story of the writing of Toro, a study of Mexican bullfighting “authored” by Sundeen’s alter ego, Travis LaFrance. The idea of writing a companion piece to a book that doesn’t exist is a nice bit......
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