literature

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.” 

Leading the Life of (Not So) Quiet Desperation in Robert Stone’s World

Lee Polevoi

Whether engendered by war and heroin, in Dog Soldiers, revolutionary zeal and madness in A Flag for Sunrise, madness again in Children of Light or religious fanaticism in Damascus Gate, these men and women find themselves headed for total meltdown. Waiting to see if the worst will happen—as it invariably does—is part of what has made Stone's work so compelling over the past five decades. But while the same kind of drug-ridden and mentally deranged anguish compels the various characters in his new novel, Death of the Black-Haired Girl, the scope of the novel is smaller than before. 

‘The Maltese Falcon’: Fact or Fiction?

Sandra Bertrand

The biggest mystery of all, however, concerns Hammett Unwritten itself.   In Gordon McAlpine’s afterword, he admits to the 2012 discovery of the manuscript and the falcon in the Lillian Hellman collection at the University of Texas, Austin.  Subsequently, he recognizes the author’s name, Owen Fitzstephan, as a character in Hammett’s novel, The Dain Curse.  Fitzstephan not only resembles Hammett physically but is that novel’s own evil mastermind.  

Philip Schultz and the Perceived Conundrum of the Dyslexic Writer

Kara Krauze

When we think of failure, our thoughts do not first adhere to beauty, emotional truth, and the deep resonance that introspection allows; the timbre of an experience that can call to us in life’s darkest hours be they night or despair. But this is precisely what poet Philip Schultz’s work pulls forth, whether poems such as those in his collection Failure winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, or Schultz’s beautifully told account of his childhood in the “dummy class” and life as an adult with a learning disability in My Dyslexia.

007 Shaken, Not Stirred, in William Boyd’s ‘Solo’

Lee Polevoi

Solo, a “James Bond Novel,” is the latest in a series of post-Ian Fleming books written by different authors (Kingsley Amis, Jeffrey Deaver, Sebastian Faulks, etc.). Now it’s William Boyd’s turn. Boyd, the hugely gifted author of Any Human Heart and the accomplished thrillers Restless and Ordinary Thunderstorms, certainly seems on paper like a great fit to extend Fleming’s legacy, breathing new life into this decades-old franchise. From the start of Solo, the tone feels different. 

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.

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