Critical Essays Archive
For a silent era, the most repressive years of the Soviet Union produced an explosion of memoir. Of them all, Nadezhda Mandelstam’s, from the 1960s, is one of the most morally striking. Several decades later, Mandelstam’s former friend Emma Gerstein published her own set of memoirs, challenging Nadezhda’s work.
Today, as in the fictional days of Thomas Mann’s novel, the world has divided into hostile camps: globalizing, liberal elites on one side and authoritarian, right-wing populists on the other.
When Anne mellows into a gracious mother and wife, smiling gently in the background, her hair easily tamed, what comes next is inevitable. By the final book, Anne shrinks to near invisibility, cut from the title of her own story.
Telling has the function of establishing authority, what our rhetorician friends call ethos, especially when the first-person point of view functions as a witness to an event or atrocity.
In the story of the Trojan War, Achilles’s “fatal flaw” changes drastically depending on the version and interpretation. Sometimes it’s his heel, the single weakness on an otherwise indestructible body; sometimes it’s his hubris, the crime of pride; sometimes it seems to be something more than either of those.
Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel mostly celebrates traditional gender roles and places a rosy, wistful haze over its portrayal of domestic life. But her well-rounded portrayal of imperfect women has afforded the novel a long-lasting relationship to feminist thought.
Fleur Jaeggy’s fiction works, two short novels and two short story collections, are marked with a quiet violence and a very particular brand of detachment.
Fifty years ago, Edward Abbey could already see the trampling of industry on the fragile desert country he had grown to love during his time as a ranger in what is now Arches National Park.
In the New Yorks of Anne Roiphe’s and Vivian Gornick’s memoirs, isolation in an urban setting is a tired trope that neither Roiphe nor Gornick finds to fit her experiences.
This year marks fifteen years since the initial US invasion of Iraq in 2003. In Rachel Kushner’s and Lisa Halliday’s newest novels, the war lurks, ever present, in the background.