Books & Fiction

Visiting the Arts Through the Lens of Janet Malcolm’s ‘41 False Starts’

Lee Polevoi

Forty-One False Starts is a collection of essays by veteran New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm. The collection spans more than two decades, ranging from profiles of the painter David Salle and German art photographer Thomas Struth to reflections on the cult of Bloomsbury and J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. Throughout the book, Malcolm displays the keen intelligence and deft turn of phrase that have exemplified her work for 40 years.

A Toast to New York’s Literary Watering Holes

Gabriella Tutino

White Horse Tavern is infamously known as the bar where poet Dylan Thomas proceeded to drink himself to death. The story goes that Thomas declared to drink roughly 18 whiskeys, retired at the Chelsea Hotel and died a few days later. The tavern was founded in 1880, and its original patrons were docksmen, sailors and other workers in the marine industry (the West Village was originally a port neighborhood). It wasn’t until the Beatnik, hippie and counterculture movements of the ‘50s and ‘60s that the Village became known for its artist communities. 

Literary Flashback: Reading Miranda July’s ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’

Kimberly Tolleson

Though the protagonists are often sad, the book itself is not; on the contrary, it is lovely and life-affirming. The characters in No One Belongs Here More Than You are so uncomfortably human and delightfully flawed, that whether the reader ultimately decides to embrace or reject them, he or she will undoubtedly be affected by their stories. In this way, July’s characters do make the human connection which they seek so eagerly.

A Writer’s Rage: Reading Claire Messud’s ‘The Woman Upstairs’

Kara Krauze

The Woman Upstairs is a novel about female experience and about the coexistence of power and powerlessness, metastasized through the tight prism of Nora’s friendship with Sirena (and her husband and son) while sharing an artist’s studio for the year, at Sirena’s behest. Nora and Sirena might almost be one woman, two parts of one female being, living in a world (our world) rife with contradictions and fraught with self-betrayal. 

Author Tom Drury Revisits Grouse County in ‘Pacific’

Lee Polevoi

Anyone familiar with his work knows this is Tom Drury’s world and the rest of us just happen to live in it. Ever since chapters from his first novel, The End of Vandalism, appeared in The New Yorker some 20 years ago, readers understood they were in the presence of a unique voice—deadpan yet deeply insightful, slightly off-kilter yet in its assessment of the ebb and flow of the human spirit, wonderfully on target. Pacific is a sequel of sorts to The End of Vandalism, revisiting the fictional Midwestern domain of Grouse County (might be in Iowa, might be in Minnesota) and inhabitants known to readers of his earlier work. 

Why Korean Literature Remains Largely Unread

Chelsea Hawkins

South Korean pop stars and actors are still riding the Hallyu wave, feeding international audiences on Billboard chart-toppers, addictive dramas and horse-riding dances. But despite the seeming enthusiasm around all things Korean, the nation’s beloved literature has remained niched, out of the limelight and still struggling to find its place in the American market. Translated literature, in general, only makes up 3 percent of the American literary market to begin with, and literary fiction and poetry comprises about 0.7 percent of that. 

Auster-Coetzee Letters Shed Light on Literary Friendship

Lee Polevoi

Here and Now is a collection of letters between the Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee and the American novelist Paul Auster. The correspondence began in 2008 when Coetzee, author of the Booker-prizewinning masterpiece, Disgrace, sent a letter to Auster, author of The New York Trilogy, suggesting that an exchange of letters “might be fun, and we might even, God willing, strike sparks off each other.”

‘Capitol Hell’ Tells the Story of Stereotypical Republicans and their Rise to Power

Kurt Thurber

Capitol Hell is certainly a book that challenges preconceived notions.  Do Republicans with their moral grandstanding and fear mongering even have a sense of humor? In this debut novel, they try. Two former Republican Congressional staffers, Jayne J. Jones and Alicia M. Long are co-authors of Capitol Hell. They tell the tale of a young, naive, exuberant scheduler, Allison Admundsom and the dog-eat-dog world that is Washington, DC politics.

Fiction: De Gaulle and I

Tara Taghizadeh

In the picture I have of my grandfather, he is standing next to General de Gaulle. You can’t see his face, though. What you see is the General in the midst of a crowd, and beside him is a man wearing a bowler hat with his back to the camera. The owner of that hat was my grandfather – according to him, anyway. “General de Gaulle is dead. France is a widow,” he’d say, shaking his head this way and that. Actually, President Pompidou said it on the radio, on a day as cold as hell when crows gathered on skinny branches covered in snow.

Reading 21st Century War Stories (Part II)

Kara Krauze

Sometimes our stories will end on that happy moment, a hero back from hell, even if reductive or just a moment in time; and sometimes the return will involve a different kind of hell, a reckoning with memory and the past, a reckoning with the schism between a then and a now. This cohesion and possibility for healing—and sometimes art—happens in the telling of the tales, the shaping of experience, character, setting, wherever the story may take us on that narrative arc. 

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