If someone were asked to discuss contemporary British masculinity, it is unlikely that they would begin with superstition and folklore, yet that is precisely the framing this topic receives in novels by Sarah Moss and John Burnside.
Kobo Abe’s 1962 novel delineates one man’s experience of unjust capture and imprisonment, and the shifting lines between purpose and absurdity that experience foregrounds. Taken as a purely existential novel, the centrality of this figure and his experience can easily remain unchallenged. Yet, he isn’t alone in his imprisonment.
Before Lady Macbeth took center stage as Shakespeare’s leading femme fatale, the bard experimented with a number of scheming women, most notably in his first works: the trio of history plays covering the tumultuous reign of Henry VI.
Carys Davies’ debut novel reveals that mythologies often arise from foolish beginnings but that the elevated stories that emerge are no less valuable.
The line between fairytale and other narrative modes is one between distance—emotional and temporal—and immediacy. Martin McDonagh’s 2003 work consistently plays across this line, retreating from and then suddenly foregrounding moments of visceral horror.
In contrast to many other more contemporary narratives, Elena Ferrante’s 2002 novel does not seek to avoid or minimize the pain of a broken marriage by playing into fantasy and wish fulfillment.
Rather than presenting the dystopian vision of a “happy” society in easy opposition to an implied non-dystopic iteration, Nicola Barker interrogates the boundaries between the two, asking if there is, in fact, something desirable in the dystopic vision—and if the alternative—perhaps a society we recognize—is really better.
Music is represented in Barnes’ novel, a fictionalized biography of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, as a means of propaganda and control, a means of subverting that propaganda, and as a pure art form, free from the petty politics of history.
The social cost of the fiction of genius, which upholds the elite few as inherently more brilliant than everyone else, regardless of underlying biases and inequalities, is unknowable. Helen DeWitt nevertheless captures a sense of this loss across her novel with equal parts fire, humor, and grief.
From her earliest encounters with Richard Wagner, George Eliot engaged critically with his work. She praised his mythological themes, his use of leitmotif, and his vision for the future of opera, but admitted to finding his works overlong, and her own musical ear ill-tuned to finding pleasure in his