(Today we have a guest column from Christina Thompson. She is the editor of Harvard Review. Her essays and articles have appeared in numerous journals, including American Scholar, the Journal of Pacific History, Australian Literary Studies, and in the 1999, 2000, and 2006 editions of Best Australian Essays. Her new book, Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, is reviewed in the New York Times Book Review this weekend.)
This spring, as the publication date of my book approached, my publisher suggested I get myself a website. I had never had a . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The voting is done, the tallies are in, and the super/meta/ultimate-Booker–or whatever you call it–has not gone to J.G. Farrell’s novel of imperial decay, The Siege of Krishnapur. (Predictably, some guy with a cleric problem has taken the honor.)
Let us pause momentarily to appreciate the coincidence that an Indian-British novelist’s book about postcolonial India, a book that captures the essence of postmodern play and hystericism, has beat out a British novelist’s book about colonial India, a book that, though published in 1973, looks back to the realist conventions of an earlier style of crafting a . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Friday Column: Is Google Making Us Read Worse?
I tried very hard to take seriously Nicholas Carr’s article in The Atlantic, which has the provocative, and lately rather fashionable, thesis that the Internet is changing the way we read. Google is making us all info-snackers in search of the quick answer; there’s so much content at hand that we can barely stand to get halfway through something before we’re jumping off to the next thing.
I’ll admit, certain aspects of Carr’s argument feel intuitively correct. And I’m seeing an awful lot of books lately about how . . . continue reading, and add your comments
(Today we have a guest column from novelist Jennifer Epstein. Her first novel is The Painter from Shanghai, recently published by W.W. Norton.)
To say the last seven years have been eventful for me is to master the understatement. Over that span of time, I’ve had two daughters, completed my MFA in fiction, written several freelance pieces, perfected my forearmstand, and (just about) made it to the ten-year-mark in my marriage.
Oh, and I wrote a novel. A 400-plus-page historical epic set in China and Paris, at the cusp of World War II.
OK—I’ll . . . continue reading, and add your comments
It has been said repeatedly, and I think correctly, that in this heavily ironized, mediated era we are each method actors performing ourselves. That is, TV, movies, and other mass media surrounds us with role models for any conceivable identity we may want to inhabit, and our well-developed consumer economy offers us everything we need to wear and own to be the person we think we are. From an early age we are sent off on a search to find ourselves—because, after all, postmodern society makes each of us feel the center of the world—and on this . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier seems to me to possess precisely those virtues to which the novel narrated in the first-person is best suited. Often in first-person novels, the narrator is magically able to relate her story with the polish and skill of a novelist, and no effort is ever made to address why an otherwise ordinary person possesses such sharp storytelling abilities. The Good Soldier strikes me as such an accomplishment because Ford does not only provide us with a narrator whose storytelling skills are realistically diminished; he also integrates the narrator’s diminished capacity into . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I recently learned that, as a middle-aged man, the blind Borges would have young boys read books to him in his apartment in Buenos Aires. This is, apparently, how the man imbibed most of his literature after the blindness set in.
I learned this odd fact which reading the short memoir With Borges. Written by the somewhat well-known chronicler of reading, Alberto Manguel, who was actually one of the young boys who read to Borges, the book is a hodgepodge of anecdotes about the man and some of his friends.
I . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Just a short while ago I finished Gunter Grass’s novel The Tin Drum, a book whose Christ imagery is at points so unequivocal that it is apparent to even a Bible dolt such as myself. Though many of the Biblical references were far too obvious even for me to miss, I had my suspicions that many more were flying right by.
The Tin Drum brought to mind a thought that I find myself entertaining from time to time: I really should read the Bible. No, I haven’t suddenly gotten religious on you. Nor do I . . . continue reading, and add your comments
With the publication of James Wood’s new book in England, we can already see the beginnings of the coverage that will soon attend its publication over here. In other words, more attention for the one literary critic in America who actually gets attention.
To me this seems unfair. Yes, Wood rightly deserves some attention, but he certainly doesn’t deserve this de facto coronation as the only thing going. Moreover, focusing on one critic to the exclusion of others is contrary to the idea of literary criticism, which thrives on a polyphonic chorus of competing voices.
In that . . . continue reading, and add your comments
To get us started, a couple familiar Frenchmen. Honore de Balzac wrote well over 100 novels and plays. The great majority of them went to his monumental cycle The Human Comedy. Emile Zola, no laggard is nonetheless diminished by comparison: he was only the author of 30-some books, although it undoubtedly would have been more if he hadn’t died of a carbon monoxide poisoning that many believe was an assassination. Similar to Balzac, the heft of his oeuvre consists in a cycle of novels—Les Rougon-Macquart (the name of a family) in this case, and there are . . . continue reading, and add your comments