Author Archive

Good Morning, Midnight and the Failure of Our Daily “Programs”

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Reading Jean Rhys’s 1939 novel, I soon landed on the lazy word unlikeable to describe its protagonist. The moment the word arose in my mind, I was suspicious, but I found Sasha’s inability to make a place for herself in the world, even on the margins, exasperating.

Truth, Beauty, and The Lying Life of Adults

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As she listens to the stories the adults around her tell to explain their lives, Giovanna, the protagonist of Elena Ferrante’s new novel, navigates the crisis of her adolescence, arriving at her own understanding of how to become an adult—and how beauty and truth figure into that journey.

The Island Child’s Myths

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A good story may seem to transform experience into myth, but as Molly Aitken’s debut novel explores, it cannot expunge the realities of the past. Nor is the world of myth any good place actually to live.

Reading Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark

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The darkness of the future may not mean that anything is possible, but it certainly means that no particular outcome is certain. This uncertainty is the grounds of hope; it also means that hope in itself is insufficient. Hope demands that we work to build a better future on

The Ethics of Delight

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We could try to protect ourselves at this time from dread, despair, and our own fury; or, like Ross Gay, we could seek delight, and find through it a doorway into engagement in the world, painful as it might be.

On the Murmuring of Books and the Abyss

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A library is not just a building, nor can it keep books entirely sealed off from the rest of the world—a library is also a network of books speaking of books, “as if they spoke among themselves.”

Sorrow and Persuasion

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The quiet, steadfast heroine of Jane Austen’s final novel, Anne Elliot, has lived a life of much sorrow. After my mother’s death, the melancholy of her character offered me a safe way to experience the sorrow and loneliness that I otherwise kept at bay.

The Art of Dissent in Abigail

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Magda Szabó’s 1970 novel is an unusual coming-of-age story—the willful heroine finds her place in society not by learning to comply with its demands, but by learning the art of dissent.

Facing the Jackpot with William Gibson

As we move toward an inevitable-seeming apocalypse, Rachael Nevins turns to three of Gibson’s novels, hoping to assuage her fear and sort through her disorientation.

Truth and Lies in Elena Ferrante’s Incidental Inventions

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Over the course of Ferrante’s new essay collection, her commentary on the contingencies of telling both truth and lies shines new light on the relationship between narrative and the frightening reality she has elsewhere called the "frantumaglia."