On Fiction


Thank You for Smoking

Dr. Nicolas Monardes of Sevilla is a 16th century doctor convinced of the wide-ranging practicality of treating illnesses with tobacco, who is also, eventually, snuffed out by his own fervent…


Eyebrows, Cigarettes, Etcetera

In Ben Lerner’s debut novel, someone is always lighting a cigarette. Awkward social situation? Time for a smoke. Waiting for a table? Cigarette, please. Terrorist attacks on Madrid’s commuter trains?…


The Forty Days (and 80 Years) of Musa Dagh

Born in Prague in 1890, Franz Werfel lived a peripatetic life as a writer and traveler. He was employed as a teacher in Leipzig and then a soldier in what…

by Lorianne DiSabato

City of the Body

Preocupied with multiculturalism, grounded in urban existence, and resounding with echoes of highbrow European culture, Teju Cole’s debut novel, Open City, would certainly appear messy and pedantic if written by…


Doctorow by Half

Early in All the Time in the World, his third collection of short stories, E.L. Doctorow raises the surprising suggestion that the book might not be worth reading from cover…


The Silence of Spring

Silence is incredibly difficult to portray in writing. Samuel Beckett was famously obsessed with the challenge, and went to enormous lengths to conceive of it. But perhaps it can be…

My Two Worlds
by Sergia Chejfec
translated by
$12.95, Softcover
Open Letter Books, 2011

Toward the Indestructible: Sergio Chejfec

  Lovers of prose in these image-dominated times have no greater ally than W.G. Sebald. His four books demonstrate that long works of prose—whether they’re called a “long essay,” a…

Vegan Foie Gras (A How-to)

The book is dying. The publishing industry is in decline. Or so we’re told by countless newspaper and magazine articles. Yet a glance at the bestseller lists makes one wonder:…

Guns at the Staff Meeting

Set in 2002, James Warner’s debut novel All Her Father’s Guns is foremost a satire of today’s post-capitalist society, particularly two of its central (seemingly discreet) institutions: academia and corporations….

Meeting the Body in the Body of Language: Notes on Character in Carver, Stein, and Holland

To Introduce “My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right.” —Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”…