literature

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. 

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.

Author David Massengill on the Joys of Writing Macabre Fiction

Snapper S. Ploen

These enticing stories of darkness and intrigue are pulled from the shadows by the mind of prolific Seattle writer David Massengill. His recently published collection of short stories, Fragments of a Journal Salvaged from a Charred House in Germany, 1816 and other stories (Anvil Fiction), spins a series of foreboding tales that infect the imagination with both dread and unique descriptive nuances. Massengill was kindly enough to sit down for an interview with Highbrow Magazine to talk about his recent publication and his thoughts on writing in the exciting new world of digital books.

Remembering the Genius of Chris Marker

Steven J. Chandler

Chris Marker wrote in the introduction to his 1997 multimedia CD-Rom Immemory, “I claim for the image the humility and powers of a madeleine.” In that CD-Rom and in many of his other creative endeavors, Marker continued the process of memory’s cartography. He embraced a multitude of genres as mapmaking tools, the span of his work communicating the dependence of the image to its memory. He cobbled together the realities of disparate cultures, mending the breaches in time through preservation of minutia and banality. 

Literary Flashback: Reading ‘This Is Where I Leave You’

Kimberly Tolleson

As one might expect, when all these semi-estranged siblings and their provocative mother are forced to be under the same roof for seven days, shenanigans, fights, heartfelt moments, and confessions ensue. At the outset, it all feels a little too set up and predictable, almost a bad knockoff of Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections. Many characters have a too-familiar feel to them. 

The Great Race: An Author, a Coupe, and the Thrill of the Ride

Steven J. Chandler

Dina Bennet has an interesting take on American literature’s classic road trip. In her book, Peking to Paris, she recounts the 8,000 mile classic car rally which she undertook with her French-born husband Bernard in a 1940 GM LaSalle coupe nicknamed “Roxanne.” The race brought them from Beijing to Russia, across Central Europe and finally into Paris. It was a road rife with possibility for social, political and cultural insights. We don’t get much further, however, than the author’s anxieties and allegiance to a husband bent on winning gold at all costs. 

How Wikipedia Fell into the Gender Gap

Sandip Roy

But Wikipedia’s women problem is different. It’s not about the clumsiness of describing Kamala Harris as California’s first female African-American Indian-American attorney general. Like much of the online world Wikipedia has a gender gap. But as it has become the default go-to site for information, its gender gap is showing in embarrassing ways. In 2011, Noam Cohen wrote in The New York Times that the contributor base was barely 13 percent women. That means there’s gender bias that shows up in the very act of deciding what topic is worthy of meriting a wiki entry and how long it is.

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