Books & Fiction

Author Thomas Mallon Revisits the Watergate Scandal in His New Novel

Lee Polevoi

Countless pages have been written about Nixon’s downfall, but novelist Thomas Mallon explores this episode through the prism of a multitude of characters caught in the scandal’s wake. Mallon sets himself a near-impossible goal—to write a novel about real-life people (some dead, some still living) who, by and large, lived on the fringes of this earthshaking event, and make it work.

Power and Style in Arthur Miller’s Middle Period

Trevor Laurence Jockims

“Arthur Miller: Collected Plays 1964-1982,” edited by contemporary, award-winning playwright Tony Kushner, is the second volume of the planned three-volume Collected Arthur Miller from the Library of America. This is one of those instances in which the book as an object asserts its own importance, since the look, feel, and heft—this volume alone runs to 848 pages—of the high-quality Library of America series is itself testimony to the cultural prominence of the authors included in its series.

Book Smugglers Fight a Notorious Book Ban in Arizona

Valeria Fernandez

Tony Diaz, aka “El Librotraficante” (or book smuggler) is arriving in Tucson on Friday with a truckload of Mexican-American books that were effectively banned from the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) to distribute to a network of “underground libraries.” The caravan, which started in Houston on March 12, aims to draw attention to a state law in Arizona banning ethnic studies that was used by politicians to shut down a Tucson Mexican-American Studies Program and literally box its books away.

In ‘Zona,’ Geoff Dyer Attempts to Uncover the Mysteries of a Cinematic Masterpiece

Elizabeth Pyjov

Geoff Dyer introduces his book Zona with a phrase attributed to Albert Camus: “Perhaps, after all, the best way of talking about what you love is to speak of it lightly.” Dyer then goes on to write about Andrei Tarkovsky’s intellectually demanding and spiritually compelling film, “Stalker.” Dyer stays true to his epigraph, speaking of this film so lightly, that he glides over the surface and does not enter the movie’s depths. What results is far from an intellectually demanding book; it is like cautiously soaking one’s feet in the pool rather than jumping inside and feeling the full sensation. 

Authors Simpson, Englander Showcase Diverse Range of the Short Story

Lee Polevoi

The short story is an infinitely variable and elastic thing, able to accommodate almost any type of narrative. This mutability may be the key to its survival and, judging by these two new collections, its continuing ability to astonish and delight. A short story can be lean or expansive, encompass whole worlds or deliver truths in an electrifying micro-second. At its best, the form deepens our grasp on what it is to be human in ways that no other art form quite duplicates. New works by Nathan Englander and Helen Simpson capture this variability with a range of entertaining and technically proficient stories.

Author Alec Wilkinson Explores Arctic Adventures

Lee Polevoi

Swedish engineer Salomon August Andrée and two compatriots set out in 1897 to fly to the North Pole via a hydrogen balloon. The plan was to begin the trip as close to 90 degrees north as possible, so the balloon would sail over the pole and come to a landing in Alaska. This breathtaking (and wholly unprecedented) expedition caught the attention of the world, but after the balloon lifted off an island in the Svalbard archipelago, it and the men aboard were never seen again.

Smaller Publishing Houses Provide for a Rich, Diverse Literary Landscape

Gerry LaFemina

On a warm Friday night in October in Frostburg, Maryland, a small college town in the Allegheny Mountains, some 75 people sit in Main Street Books listening as four editors introduce a writer each from their respective publishing house.  This is the kickoff event of the Frostburg Independent Literature Festival, one of many such events celebrating independent publishers happening every month around the country.  The editors all say the same thing: What they do is about the writers.  It’s about publishing work they believe in.  It’s about getting good books into the hands of readers.

Author Penelope Lively Wonders ‘How It All Began’

Lee Polevoi

The mugging of an elderly woman on a London street sets things in motion in Penelope Lively’s 22nd novel, How It All Began. This expertly rendered opening scene (“The pavement rises up and hits her. Slams into her face, drives the lower rim of her glasses into her cheek”) lays the foundation for rippling events that directly affect nine different individuals.

Stalking Graham Greene

Lee Polevoi

In The Man Within My Head, British-born travel writer Pico Iyer attempts to uncover the source of a nagging, lifelong obsession. Why does Graham Greene, one of the 20th century's most accomplished writers, continue to haunt his life years after the great man’s death?

Rediscovering the Joy of Quiet: Thank You, Pico Iyer

Sandip Roy

When a friend forwarded me Pico Iyer’s recent New York Times essay, “The Joy of Quiet,” I was squashed in the back of a Maruti shuttle van on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass of Kolkata....The honking din of traffic around me was deafening. The construction happening on the bypass added its grating groan to the general bedlam. The Maruti rattled and creaked, the FM radio non-stop hits swelling and garbling with each bump on the road. Every single person in the shuttle was shouting into their cell phone. I wanted them all to stop, take a deep breath and read what Iyer had to say.


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