Books & Fiction

Movies and Politics Collide in Jim Shepard’s ‘Tunnel at the End of the Light’

Lee Polevoi

In The Tunnel at the End of the Light, Jim Shepard, a professor at Williams College, exercises a different set of muscles. These essays, written for The Believer during the George W. Bush administration, closely explore a handful of iconic American films for insights they can shed on American ideas of individuality, power and imperialism. Shepard isn’t shy about naming the wrongdoers and political leaders who led the US into unwanted wars and a pernicious global recession.

The Unsinkable Nikki Giovanni

Anne Branigin

The 74-year-old writer, activist and English professor spends much of her time laughing—her form of self-care since her grandmother used to read the “Laughter Is the Best Medicine” section of Reader’s Digest with her. But Giovanni’s latest collection, A Good Cry, What We Learn From Tears and Laughter, from William Morrow, charts new territory for the poet—delving deeply into memories of loss and abuse. 

Asterix Returns for Another Comic Adventure

Sonia Ye

The original books, written by Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo, built up a mass following in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with many childhood readers from those days still snapping up the titles decades on. After Goscinny’s death in 1977, Uderzo wrote and illustrated the series until he retired in 2009. The last three editions have been written by Jean-Yves Ferri and drawn by Didier Conrad, sticking closely to the original format.​

James Atlas Shares His Own Life in ‘Shadow in the Garden’

Lee Polevoi

James Atlas, the author of Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet and Bellow: A Biography, has written a sort of “summing-up” of his own life, large chunks of which he’s devoted to chronicling the lives of an obscure poet of the 1930s and Saul Bellow, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist of more recent times. His memoir, The Shadow in the Garden, is an often fascinating—and, at times, very personal—account of the nearly insurmountable tasks of completing an in-depth literary biography.

In New Book, Daniel Ellsberg Warns of Nuclear Dangers

Greg Mitchell

While I wrote about the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s, my close connection with Ellsberg began only in the 1980s after I became the editor of Nuclear Times magazine. Ellsberg, then (and still) living in the San Francisco area, had started appearing at anti-nuclear protests — the “freeze” campaign was in full swing across the country. Naturally I wanted him to write an essay for the magazine on this subject but I was warned that while he often tried to write articles he “never finishes them.” When he completed a column for us, it drew wide attention as his first published piece in many years.

A Look Back at Walter Mitty

Adam Gravano

While Thurber is generally considered a humorist, he has a bountiful capacity to write fiction of a darker mien. Stories like “The Lady on 142” and “The Catbird Seat” prove there's an edge to Thurber's mind. Walter Mitty is easily described as a henpecked husband who drifts into reveries to escape his wife. At first, it's easy to mistake the daydreams for flashbacks, but, on closer examination, they fall apart. 

A Death Haunts Sheila Kohler’s ‘Once We Were Sisters’

Lee Polevoi

Relating events that occurred a half-century or longer ago in present tense does convey a certain kind of urgent immediacy.  On the other hand, when the narrative jumps around in time from chapter from chapter—alternating between the aftermath of her sister’s death and the years they spent growing up together (and apart)—a certain lack of clarity may emerge. When exactly did a particular event take place? 

Laughing in the Dark With Ottessa Moshfegh’s ‘Homesick for Another World’

Lee Polevoi

Yes, these stories are bleak and the author seems strangely obsessed with acne, scars, and other unglamorous bodily functions. But Ottessa Moshfegh’s vision surpasses these particulars and Homesick for Another World emerges as among the most profound, absorbing short story collections to appear in years. And you can take that critical hype to the bank.

Man Booker International Prize Awarded to Han Kang

Ju-min Park

South Korean author Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction on Monday for her novel "The Vegetarian," a dark, surreal story about a woman who gives up eating meat and seeks to become a tree. The 45-year-old Han had been short-listed for the prize for fiction in translation to English along with Italian writer Elena Ferrante, Angola's Jose Eduardo Agualusa, Chinese author Yan Lianke, Turkey's Orhan Pamuk and Austrian Robert Seethaler.

Black Identity Isn’t the Only Thing Rachel Dolezal Stole

Anne Branigin

Reading In Full Color, Rachel Dolezal’s memoir, I was struck by this similarity between her and me. We both grew up fetishizing an other, aching to inhabit a skin that wasn’t our own. But for me, the experience of longing for whiteness, the need to create it and mold myself to it, would always be the reason I could never see myself as a white woman. Not so with Dolezal, who, as her book makes clear, fetishized and exoticized black identity before ultimately conjuring up a version for herself.

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