fiction

Love, Loneliness Are Focus of David James Poissant’s' The Heaven of Animals'

Melinda Parks

If a purpose of literature is to expose universal truths about life and human nature, then David James Poissant’s The Heaven of Animals has done its job. Poissant, a celebrated young writer whose stories have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, The Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times, and whose work has already garnered impressive literary awards and critical praise, presents layered storylines and realistically flawed characters in his first collection of short stories.

Navigating the Mostly Difficult World of Chang-Rae Lee

Lee Polevoi

The decision proves to be a masterstroke, since one of the chief pleasures of On Such a Full Sea is the anxious, reflective, self-questioning and cautiously prideful “chorus of We” that tells the story of Fan, a 16-year-old fish-tank diver in a highly stratified, post-apocalyptic America. The collective voice emanates from B-Mor, “once known as Baltimore,” whose inhabitants are charged with raising fish and vegetables to feed the elite Charter villages, located across a vast, lawless territory called the “open counties.” 

The Story of the Joads Still Matters, 75 Years Later

Benjamin Wright

As an historical novel, The Grapes of Wrath is rooted in the events that took place three-quarters of a century ago, which may make it seem dated to some readers. But though times have changed, many of the troubles that the Joads confronted are (unfortunately) still with us – economic injustice, the struggle for human worth, corruption. Of equal significance, the work deals with nearly universal themes – human dignity, the struggle for survival and, more than anything else, hope – that make it as pertinent today as it was 75 years ago. 

Gruesome Murders Haunt ‘Quiet Dell’

Lee Polevoi

In 1931, after an exchange of love letters, a man calling himself Cornelius Pierson first relocated a middle-aged widow named Asta Eicher and later her three children, from their home in Park Ridge, Illinois, to the small town of Quiet Dell, West Virginia. Weeks later, the bodies of the Eicher family were discovered beneath the garage of a home owned by Harry Powers, who turned out to be a psychopathic killer. Powers was convicted of their murders (and others) and executed in 1932.

Between the Covers with Wendy Lesser’s ‘Why I Read’

Lee Polevoi

As the founder and editor of The Threepenny Review, a prominent American literary magazine, Wendy Lesser is uniquely positioned to explore the pleasures and strategies of reading. In Why I Read, she embarks on a free-ranging and broad analysis of certain novels, stories, plays, poems and essays that have resonated with her over a lifetime of reading. “ … When I ask myself why I read literature, I am not really asking about motivation,” Lesser writes. “I am asking what I get from it: what delights I have received over the years, what rewards I can expect to glean.” 

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. 

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. 

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.”

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.

Family Secrets Emerge from Iconic Photograph in Marisa Silver’s ‘Mary Coin’

Lee Polevoi

In her new novel, Marisa Silver richly re-imagines the subject of this photograph as Mary Coin, struggling to keep her ever-growing family alive. The photographer who captures the melancholy image is a polio-stricken artist named Vera Dare. Silver tells their stories both before they cross paths in California’s Imperial Valley and as they diverge in the years thereafter. For different reasons, the well-known photograph haunts their lives: 

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