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  • Fascinating new nonfiction

    Fascinating new nonfiction

    “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine” by Joe Hagan (Knopf, $29.95) Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner provided Hagan with access to his associates and archives, but the two men had a falling out before the book’s publication. The book Hagan ended up writing...

  • 'Mrs. Osmond' takes up where Henry James' 'Portrait of a Lady' left off but falls a bit short

    'Mrs. Osmond' takes up where Henry James' 'Portrait of a Lady' left off but falls a bit short

    “The house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million,” Henry James wrote memorably in his preface to “The Portrait of a Lady.” He added that the imposing structure of his 1881 novel was laid on a “single small cornerstone, the conception of a certain young woman affronting her destiny.”...

  • John Crowley's new epic 'Ka' is a late masterpiece in a stellar fantasy career

    John Crowley's new epic 'Ka' is a late masterpiece in a stellar fantasy career

    Neil Gaiman calls John Crowley’s best-known novel, “Little, Big,” “one of my favourite books in the world.” Michael Chabon claims Crowley as an inspiration for his own work, alongside Borges, Steven Millhauser and Thomas Pynchon, “writers who can dwell between worlds.” Other fans include the late...

  • A new biography gets Oriana Fallaci the way people who knew her couldn't

    A new biography gets Oriana Fallaci the way people who knew her couldn't

    The journalist, novelist and irascible force of nature known as Oriana Fallaci never wanted her life story to be written. “I have never authorized, nor will I ever authorize, a biography,” she once told an enquiring academic. That didn’t stop at least one contender, the American scholar Santo L....

  • Jeff Vandermeer on the delicious satire of 'Sourdough' by Robin Sloan

    Jeff Vandermeer on the delicious satire of 'Sourdough' by Robin Sloan

    In this day and age, under our current political conditions, you’d be forgiven for mistaking lightness for triteness, escape for escapism. There’s a sense that our fictions should be of Earth-shattering import in the obvious ways, and this perhaps desensitizes us to other examples of subversion...

  • Literary biography: possibility and peril

    Literary biography: possibility and peril

    Henry James, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden did not want to endure a biography, and tried desperately but vainly to prevail against predatory life-writers. In his essay on the French novelist George Sand, James boldly mounted a military defense: “The pale, forewarned victim, with every track covered,...

  • Jesmyn Ward's 'Sing, Unburied, Sing’ is multivocal and haunting

    Jesmyn Ward's 'Sing, Unburied, Sing’ is multivocal and haunting

    Jesmyn Ward’s latest novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” is a multivocal book, switching voices from chapter to chapter. But its moral anchor is a young boy named JoJo, a biracial child in Mississippi who is essentially without parents and who, at the age of 13, will still begin his monologue by gravely...

  • Edward St. Aubyn sets aside autobiographical fiction in 'Dunbar' and updates Shakespeare's 'King Lear'

    Edward St. Aubyn sets aside autobiographical fiction in 'Dunbar' and updates Shakespeare's 'King Lear'

    Years ago in an undergraduate Shakespeare paper I posited that the lustful sisters of “King Lear,” Goneril and Regan, might have been affected by stages of the moon often mentioned in that play. “A bit far-fetched,” wrote my professor, dryly. I wonder what that professor might think of Abby and...

  • Carmen Maria Machado's 'Her Body and Other Parties' reclaims the female body in subversive, joyful ways

    Carmen Maria Machado's 'Her Body and Other Parties' reclaims the female body in subversive, joyful ways

    Something is happening to women’s bodies. In Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, “Her Body and Other Parties,” women evaporate, are haunted after gastric surgery, literally lose their heads and chart an apocalyptic pandemic through their sexual encounters. Their every experience...

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates blazes a singular intellectual path in 'We Were Eight Years in Power'

    Ta-Nehisi Coates blazes a singular intellectual path in 'We Were Eight Years in Power'

    Early in “We Were Eight Years in Power,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’ third book, he writes, “[t]here is a notion out there that black people enjoy the Sisyphean struggle against racism. In fact, most of us live for the day when we can struggle against anything else.” However, as he explains throughout these...

  • Hillary Clinton's 'What Happened' says something revealing about America

    Hillary Clinton's 'What Happened' says something revealing about America

    If you’re looking for a takeaway beyond the soundbites from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election postmortem “What Happened,” you’ll have to read deep into the book. It doesn’t come until page 450, in a discussion of decorum and how it applies to losing candidates. “At first,” Clinton writes, “I had...

  • Science fiction gets criminal

    Science fiction gets criminal

    Science fiction is often treated like a genre (and for a good reason), but genre lines can be incredibly blurry, with quite a bit of variation and room to play. One area that’s been growing recently is the sub-genre of crime stories and mysteries within sci-fi. Here is a selection worth investigating....

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