“Fourteen years ago I left my job at a publicly traded company and began life as a freelancer. In all these years I have been trying to get to what Jenny Odell calls the ‘third space,’ an arena of both participation in and resistance to society.”
The pleasure of reading Jenny Diski’s essays is in spending time with her persona—opinionated, funny, and endlessly curious. How can there be an end in wanting to know about Diski, her subjects, or any other example of what it is to be a human in this world?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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