Books & Fiction

Remembering Albert Camus

Karolina R. Swasey

Camus was presumably the most photogenic and charismatic French writer of all time and doubtlessly one of the greatest minds and authors of his century, an expounder, if not hero, of hopelessness and absurdity. On the occasion of his 100th birthday it’s about time we demystify the icon of the incorruptible intellectual, whose magical sentences — pointing fingers that burst the most fundamental dreams of humankind like bubbles — remain unwavering boulders in the word-landscapes of the 20th century.

Tales of Discovery and Disillusionment in Andrea Barrett’s ‘Archangel’

Lee Polevoi

The spirit of scientific enterprise infuses Archangel, Andrea Barrett’s new collection of stories. A winner of the National Book Award, Barrett has carved out a singular niche writing about science, or more specifically, scientists in the decades before and after the turn of the 20th century—when so much of what was considered “true” about the natural world was being dramatically up-ended. 

New Fiction: Florence the Forgotten

Maggie Hennefeld

This day and age, you only count as an undead being if you are fleshy enough to fall in love: anatomically correct vampires, Oedipal demons, baying werewolves who turn out to be your soulmate, and even coming-of-age witches. If there is no corporeal lust involved then you might as well have stayed dead for good. But my name is Florence and even though I am a specter without a body, I still think that my story deserves to be told all the same. 

Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles

Steven J. Chandler

The creature who spoke from the bowels of society, the sovereign of booziness and grab‑ass who penned degenerate memoirs such as Post Office, Women, Factotum and Ham on Rye, was the voice of Los Angeles. Charles Bukowski lived and wrote in Los Angeles, a city whose name belies the makeup of its population. This big burly poet and the sordid Los Angeles of his novels stood against an image of movie stars, bleach blondes, hair plugs, bosoms pumped with silicon and lips with collagen. 

Getting Lost in the World of Edwidge Danticat

Kaitlyn Fajilan

In August, renowned Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat released her latest novel, Claire of the Sea Light, after a nearly decade long hiatus. Told through the eyes of several residents of a fictional seaside town called Ville Rose, the story jumps back and forth between the years 1999 and 2009, right before the chaos of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In it, Danticat offers a multiplicity of voices that interweave with one another to construct a tale about community and the bonds that hold in the midst of political corruption, environmental degradation, poverty, and death. 

André Aciman and the Writer’s Craft

Kara Krauze

In founding The Writers’ Institute more than six years ago, Aciman established working editors from heralded publications and publishing houses (The New Yorker, The New York Times, Norton, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and Granta now among them) as instructors. These professional editors serve as edifiers and mentors, instead of those typically teaching within the MFA model: writers. While the program is finite, lasting two semesters, the model has proved successful enough in nurturing engagement with craft.

Love and Mayhem Take up Residence in ‘Men in Miami Hotels’

Lee Polevoi

In Smith’s novel, a character’s wig, “like an orange egret nest, sat puffed and glistening on the table.” A “tiny, ambidextrous breeze” floats down an alley. In Albertson’s headquarters we find “the factotums and skill men and hangers-on, the rumble boys and the slack, ruined characters kept around by Albertson to remind him of worlds and episodes most men would want to forget.” Cot “sits in the shade looking out at the ocean, a bleak expression on his face like that of a man marooned on an island nobody will discover for years.”

Literary Flashback: Reading ‘The Devil in the White City’

Kimberly Tolleson

Despite being a work of historical nonfiction, Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City is surprisingly capable of leaving readers with mouths open and hairs on end; it’s a wonder that such a tantalizing true story is not already a part of America’s mainstream lore. For this reason, however, the book reads like good fiction, replete with foreshadowing, suspense, and enthralling characters. The author backs up his narrative with vast research, digging into the history surrounding the improbable construction of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer who preyed there.

Chuck Klosterman Offers No Sympathy for the Devil

Lee Polevoi

A book about villainy by the pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman would seem (on paper, as it were) like a terrific idea. Klosterman is a smart, funny writer who has expanded his beat beyond sports and popular culture to serving as The Ethicist for The New York Times Magazine. The resulting effort, however, is a strangely abstracted work that isn’t so much about evil as about our popular conception of evil—not necessarily the same thing.

Crisscrossing the Pond in Colum McCann’s ‘TransAtlantic’

Lee Polevoi

Fictional characters that appear fleetingly in these early sections rise to prominence later in TransAtlantic. From the 19th century to nearly the present day, McCann brilliantly draws us into the lives of several generations of women: Lily Duggan, a penniless maid in Webb’s Dublin household who immigrates to America; her daughter Emily, a journalist, who reports on Brown and Alcock’s historic flight; Emily’s daughter, Lottie, who suffers a mother’s loss during the Troubles and later exhorts Sen. Mitchell to end the violence. These characters’ lives are deftly intertwined, adding considerable texture to a story that otherwise threatens to be sprawling and diffuse.

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