Author Archive

The Dangerous Age’s Repudiation of the Marriage Plot

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Women are often confined in stories to “erotic narratives” that generally lead to the altar; menopause marks the end of the tale. This plight for a woman in mid-life is evident in the enactment and repudiation of the marriage plot in Karin Michaëlis’s 1910 novel.

In the Company of Men’s Long View of History

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To take the long view of history is to find company with our ancestors. In Véronique Tadjo’s 2017 novel, available today in English, it is “Baobab, the first tree, the everlasting tree, the totem tree” that sees humanity from this perspective.

Remembering the Future

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Since reading Natalia Ginzburg’s 1963 novel last year, I have wanted to identify and investigate my own family lexicon, the basis of our unity in the pressure of our semi-quarantine in a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with no yard and not much of a view.

Emptiness and Red Pill

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Discovering emptiness within himself while far from home, the unnamed narrator of Hari Kunzru’s latest novel falls under the influence of a champion of the alt-right and awakens—it seems—to a brutal reality. But this understanding of reality, too, turns out to be partial, provisional.

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.”