Do Writers Need A Room of Their Own?

From Writer Unboxed: A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction–Virginia Woolf As an only child, I always had my own room. There were many, many rooms during the years when my father was a golf course construction supervisor. Some were cramped and generic, others included an adjoining … Read more

The Death of Max Jacob

From The Paris Review: In late December of 1943, Max Jacob went to Orléans and Montargis to buy Christmas gifts for the children of the village of Saint-Benoît. He stayed for five days as a guest in the house of one of his doctor friends in Montargis, where he enjoyed the warmth of a cheerful … Read more

Hellacious California!

From The Los Angeles Review of Books: NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICAN CRITIC Hinton Rowan Helper left a lasting impression on how Californian culture is still viewed to this day through one mordant comment: I will say, that I have seen purer liquors, better segars [cigars], finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and … Read more

Why Can’t Publishers Handle the Truth?

From Publishers Weekly: When Carmen recounted waking up to the prodding batons of U.S. border guards after fainting from exhaustion during her third attempt to enter the United States from Mexico via the Rio Grande River, I remained speechless. By 2012, I’d spent seven years and hundreds of hours interviewing women like Carmen who survived … Read more

What We Aren’t Seeing

From The Paris Review: How appropriate that a museum show devoted to the unicorn—a mythical animal whose name has come to mean something so rare and elusive that it might or might not exist—should have failed to materialize. “A Blessing of Unicorns” was slated to bring the fifteenth-century unicorn tapestries from the Musée de Cluny … Read more

Fiction Favorites of the Espionage Pros

From Writers in the Storm: Writing espionage is a balancing act between being authentic and being so accurate that we embarrass political leaders, get people killed, and/or end up with some angry FBI Special Agents on our doorstep. As a general rule, while the non-violent embarrassment of political leaders who are asking for it can … Read more

‘Twilight of the Gods’ Review: A Blood-Soaked Peace

From The Wall Street Journal: A tale-telling axiom holds that complex narratives—whether from a writer’s quill, the pulpit or a Hollywood storyboard—are best broken into threes. From Sophocles to Coppola, the trilogy has thrived as a means to carve an enormous meal into manageable courses. World War II, history’s most complex bloodbath, often seems to require such … Read more

The Vanishing Half Finds an Audience in Turbulent Times

From The Wall Street Journal: “The Vanishing Half,” a critically acclaimed novel about identity and race, is on track to become not just one of the bestselling books of the year, but a 352-page cultural phenomenon. Initial print sales of the book by Brit Bennett suggest it is becoming a blockbuster with staying power. More … Read more

The Churchill Complex

From The Wall Street Journal: The special relationship—or, as they write it in Britain, the Special Relationship—between the United States and the United Kingdom is one of those partnerships that everyone talks about but few understand. Ian Buruma’s stimulating and highly readable “The Churchill Complex: The Curse of Being Special, From Winston and FDR to … Read more

The mother load

From The Guardian: Never in my life had I been so high. I’d just given a reading in Amsterdam after which the gracious hosts of the evening took me out for drinks. Three young women asked me questions about sex and love and desire as though I were an expert and it was nice but … Read more

Iron Empires

From The Wall Street Journal: The public image of the robber barons has always been a barometer of how America thinks about wealth. Were they financiers or swindlers? Builders or monopolists? In the Progressive Era, the muckraker Ida Tarbell cast John D. Rockefeller as a ruthless monopolist, and Matthew Josephson’s compelling but one-sided Depression-era tome, … Read more

Wordsworth at 250

From The Wall Street Journal: It’s time to celebrate the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth, born 250 years ago in a picturesque market town in northern England. One way to size up his achievement is to venture backward, beginning in the present day and drifting past the postmodernists, the modernists, the Edwardians, the Victorians, until we … Read more

The Allure of the Celebrity Outlaw

From The Wall Street Journal: Near the midpoint of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” director George Roy Hill’s 1969 buddy movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the outlaws barge into the office of a Wyoming sheriff. Anxious to evade the hard-charging posse tracking them after a pair of train robberies, the duo beseeches … Read more

7 Books About New York City’s Drastic Economic Divide

From Electric Lit: It’s been said many times already that the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the dramatic economic inequality in New York City—which of course ties into deeper systemic issues around race. But to pretend those inequalities haven’t been obvious before this time—to pretend they haven’t always been part of the city’s history—is a … Read more

8 Anti-Capitalist Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels

From Electric Lit: Karl Marx may be famous for his thorough, analytic attack on capitalism (see: all three volumes and the 1000-plus pages of Das Kapital), but let’s be real: it’s not the most exciting to read. What if, just as a thought experiment, our works that reimagined current structures of power also had robots? Speculative … Read more

The Lockdown Lessons of “Crime and Punishment”

From The New Yorker: At the end of “Crime and Punishment,” which was completed in 1866, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s hero, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, has a dream that so closely reflects the roilings of our own pandemic one almost shrinks from its power. Here’s part of it, in Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s rendering: He had dreamed that the … Read more