Elif Batuman’s protagonist wants to trust language, but language is inherently dishonest, a fractured mirror that never accurately reflects what really is. Trust it too much and it will leave you feeling betrayed.
Weldon Kees’s poetry spans a variety of forms, and the poems similarly include such a scattering of voices that you might not think they were written by the same person. But in the poems we also find a characteristic that unifies his work—a kind of sneaky violence.
In setting her novel against Occupy Wall Street, Antonia Angress opens an intelligent dialogue about the different relationships that people have with art, and particularly the gap between art that connects on a personal level and art that is meant to instigate change.
Jeff Chon’s 2020 novel creates the impression that we cannot help but be immersed in the very toxic culture being satirized and critiqued. We feel the discomfiting sense that we are operating on someone else’s turf—and we aren’t likely to find our way out anytime soon.
It can be astonishing to learn how different our loved ones were when we weren’t around to know them. It can feel like a personal connection is lost, or that the person we know in the present is somehow incomplete.
Atticus Lish’s 2014 novel is a book with many stories piled up inside it, its personalities, with their long and painful histories, bumping and crashing into each other in the present. It is a love story that rarely uses the word love.
In her 2021 book, Maggie Nelson comes to identify and appreciate freedom’s paradox—that true freedom comes with an understanding of limits, or an appreciation of the idea of constraint.
Colson Whitehead’s first book is a complex story that takes an authoritative point of view within a deeply imagined world.
Nicholson Baker’s longform essay “Lumber” is about the joy of one man doing the work of discovery and learning, and the fact that it comes from a time before the lazy chaos of the internet might be the most enjoyable thing about it.
Elizabeth McCracken’s stories do more than speak—they wink and flirt, make visual puns as though they are doing a skit together, improvising and seeing if they can get their stage partner to crack, while the reader, seeing the winks and the gestures, knows they are part of the show.