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Timeless stories from our 170-year archive handpicked to speak to the news of the day.
The invention of the narcissist
Karl Ove Knausgaard’s encyclopedic novels
Robert Coover returns to realism
When five brightly balaclava’d members of the Pussy Riot collective climbed atop the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February 2012 to chant “Our Lady, Chase Putin…
Joshua Ferris’s half-baked novel of ideas
First, collect all the details you can on all the people you encounter — this will turn them into “characters.” Second, search this trove for the most interesting connections among the…
John Updike, Yes-Man
How the detective escaped his creator
Last fall, the Man Booker Prize, the premier award for fiction in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, announced that it was coming to America. Presumably Edward St. Aubyn had already…
The origins of today’s mass extinction
John Florio — lexicographer, raconteur, and supposed model for Shakespeare’s schoolmaster Holofernes, in Love’s Labour’s Lost — was born in London in 1553 to an unidentified Englishwoman and an Italian Protestant who’d…
The fickle career of Carl Van Vechten
Discussed in this essay: The Kennan Diaries, by George F. Kennan, edited by Frank Costigliola. W. W. Norton. 688 pages. $39.95. Pity the man’s poor wife. To peruse this generous selection from…
The trial of 12 Years a Slave
It is inevitable that some readers will take from Evelyn Barish’s biography of the life and misdeeds of Paul de Man the notion that literary theory is a crock. The title…
Is E. E. Cummings a serious writer?
America’s self-help gospel
The limits of autobiography
Bernard Malamud was born in New York City in 1914 to a family that exchanged Yiddish for English, and he always regretted the loss. Older than Bellow and, in Roth…
Robert Stone returns home
A history of ballooning
The protagonist and narrator of E. L. Doctorow’s twelfth novel, Andrew’s Brain (Random House, $26), is a clumsy cognitive scientist who relates the story of his life from an undisclosed location…
A theory of glamour
Can Amazon change its predatory ways?
Ezra Pound’s dictum “Make It New” has long been cited as modernism’s driving objective. Yet Pound, in coining the phrase, was actually drawing on his own (rather free) translation of…
The Young Writer and the last literary celebrity
The hope and hokum of immortality
The title of Margaret Drabble’s new novel, The Pure Gold Baby (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26), refers to “Lady Lazarus,” a poem Sylvia Plath wrote a few months before she committed…
The poetry of Middle Eastern uprising
Between 1985 and 1993, Bob Shacochis published two story collections and a novel, two of which were finalists for, and one of which won, the National Book Award. As literary…