Books & Fiction

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.

Siegfried Sassoon: The Rebel Soldier a Century On

Mike Peters

Siegfried Sassoon, as the military cross awarded 11 months earlier testified, may have gained a reputation as a brave soldier, who was willing to risk his own life to pursue the enemy, and may have begun to make his name as one of the finest poets of his generation but he firmly believed, as his train pushed on northwards, that he was about to put at risk all he had achieved and indeed, all he hoped to achieve. 

The Master, the Protege, and the Ghost Story: Reading Henry James and Edith Wharton

Adam Gravano

Ghost stories may be an old genre, with a long history of now seemingly tired tropes, but a fair sampling is in order to give a reader an idea of their potential. A general volume including works from around the genre, including authors of varying specialties, is The Big Book of Ghost Stories. Otto Penzler's tasteful editing gives the reader an array of stories from a few different general themes. What Penzler's volume lacks, however, is the work of one of the genre's more patient, subtle touches, that of Henry James. 

In ‘Voyager,’ Russell Banks Is Restless in Love and Travel

Lee Polevoi

He comes across as alternately guilt-ridden over his treatment of his wives and at times belligerent about demands made on him by women and friends. In recounting the rigors and delights of a magazine-commissioned travel piece (“Thirty islands in sixty days”), he sometimes skims over key details and offers up a glossy summary of his experiences. It seems the article he finally wrote helped to exorcize personal demons, as much as convey the overall experience to readers.

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