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A Girl Vanishes, Seasons Pass, in Jon McGregor’s ‘Reservoir 13’

Lee Polevoi

A frenzied, exhaustive search gets underway. But despite the best efforts of residents and authorities, no trace of the girl is found. McGregor, employing a kind of narrative wide-angle lens, travels fitfully among the villagers—Jones, the school janitor; Jane, the vicar; the butcher Martin Fowler and his wife, Ruth; teens Sophie, James, Liam and Deepak—pausing long enough to remark on their circumstances and then moving on. 

Movies and Politics Collide in Jim Shepard’s ‘Tunnel at the End of the Light’

Lee Polevoi

In The Tunnel at the End of the Light, Jim Shepard, a professor at Williams College, exercises a different set of muscles. These essays, written for The Believer during the George W. Bush administration, closely explore a handful of iconic American films for insights they can shed on American ideas of individuality, power and imperialism. Shepard isn’t shy about naming the wrongdoers and political leaders who led the US into unwanted wars and a pernicious global recession.

James Atlas Shares His Own Life in ‘Shadow in the Garden’

Lee Polevoi

James Atlas, the author of Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet and Bellow: A Biography, has written a sort of “summing-up” of his own life, large chunks of which he’s devoted to chronicling the lives of an obscure poet of the 1930s and Saul Bellow, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist of more recent times. His memoir, The Shadow in the Garden, is an often fascinating—and, at times, very personal—account of the nearly insurmountable tasks of completing an in-depth literary biography.

In New Book, Daniel Ellsberg Warns of Nuclear Dangers

Greg Mitchell

While I wrote about the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s, my close connection with Ellsberg began only in the 1980s after I became the editor of Nuclear Times magazine. Ellsberg, then (and still) living in the San Francisco area, had started appearing at anti-nuclear protests — the “freeze” campaign was in full swing across the country. Naturally I wanted him to write an essay for the magazine on this subject but I was warned that while he often tried to write articles he “never finishes them.” When he completed a column for us, it drew wide attention as his first published piece in many years.

A Death Haunts Sheila Kohler’s ‘Once We Were Sisters’

Lee Polevoi

Relating events that occurred a half-century or longer ago in present tense does convey a certain kind of urgent immediacy.  On the other hand, when the narrative jumps around in time from chapter from chapter—alternating between the aftermath of her sister’s death and the years they spent growing up together (and apart)—a certain lack of clarity may emerge. When exactly did a particular event take place? 

Laughing in the Dark With Ottessa Moshfegh’s ‘Homesick for Another World’

Lee Polevoi

Yes, these stories are bleak and the author seems strangely obsessed with acne, scars, and other unglamorous bodily functions. But Ottessa Moshfegh’s vision surpasses these particulars and Homesick for Another World emerges as among the most profound, absorbing short story collections to appear in years. And you can take that critical hype to the bank.

Man Booker International Prize Awarded to Han Kang

Ju-min Park

South Korean author Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction on Monday for her novel "The Vegetarian," a dark, surreal story about a woman who gives up eating meat and seeks to become a tree. The 45-year-old Han had been short-listed for the prize for fiction in translation to English along with Italian writer Elena Ferrante, Angola's Jose Eduardo Agualusa, Chinese author Yan Lianke, Turkey's Orhan Pamuk and Austrian Robert Seethaler.

In ‘Voyager,’ Russell Banks Is Restless in Love and Travel

Lee Polevoi

He comes across as alternately guilt-ridden over his treatment of his wives and at times belligerent about demands made on him by women and friends. In recounting the rigors and delights of a magazine-commissioned travel piece (“Thirty islands in sixty days”), he sometimes skims over key details and offers up a glossy summary of his experiences. It seems the article he finally wrote helped to exorcize personal demons, as much as convey the overall experience to readers.

The Art of the Personal Essay Is Still Alive and Well

Lee Polevoi

Is the personal essay “in eclipse” in today’s literary landscape? Jonathan Franzen, guest editor of The Best American Essays 2016, thinks so. As he notes in his introduction to the latest collection, most American publications have ceased publishing these “pure essays,” while smaller publications that still do so “have fewer readers than Adele has Twitter followers.” 

A Legendary Gunslinger Comes of Age in Ron Hansen’s ‘The Kid’

Lee Polevoi

The descriptions of gunplay remain as flamboyant and gut-wrenching as at the beginning of Hansen’s literary career. During a fierce exchange of gunfire, one of the Kid’s allies is shot in the chest and the “force of it slammed him into a fall from his horse, and he was as quiet on the earth as a heap of coats.” There are striking differences between The Kid and Hansen’s earlier westerns. In The Assassination of Jesse James, he dives deep into the souls of the famous protagonist and his acolyte (and later assassin). 

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