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Timeless stories from our 170-year archive handpicked to speak to the news of the day.
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…
Thomas Pynchon goes online
Filming Uganda’s homophobic fits
At the end of a chapter on Livia, the wife of the Roman emperor Augustus, in Confronting the Classics (Liveright, $28.95), the Cambridge scholar Mary Beard reminds us that when…
The unspent life of J. F. Powers
Critiques of a life online
Love and marriage at the movies
Jane Campion’s moral wilderness
Peter Orner is a true writers’ writer, which is to say a writer writers complain to writers about readers not reading. His novel The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (a…
The memoir is a tempting but treacherous form. As the English novelist Rachel Cusk writes in Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $20), “Unclothed, truth can be…
A stroll through our cities
Uncovering Iran’s coup
Andrew Solomon’s exploration of difference