On Fiction

Writing the Cry: French and Francophone Literature

Is France still at the center of the French-language literary world? Or, to ask a broader question, is there a center at all? In the fall of 2006, five of…

Sex & Lies in Vintage Hollywood: Chuck Palahniuk‘s Tell-All

Told from the perspective of a surly, intelligent assistant-to-a-star Miss Hazie Coogan, Tell-All is a delicious slap in the face of an archetypal Hollywood of yesteryear. Like his previous novel…

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A Herman Melville Summer Vacation

For years I had wanted to visit the house where Herman Melville finished writing Moby-Dick. I knew it was in the Berkshires, and on a visit this summer to the area,…

Luka and the Fire of Life
by Salman Rushdie
Hardcover, $25.00
Random House, 2010

Luka Pilgrim Saves the World

A book like Luka and the Fire of Life, the latest novel from Salman Rushdie, warrants a personal response. It is tempting (perhaps even easy) to write about the literary elements…

The Audacity of Veracity

1. Historical fiction is an audacious enterprise forever at risk of succumbing to arrogance. After countless hours of painstaking research into an historical event or figure of interest, what could…

The Tidiest of Sprawl

Midway through Jonathan Franzen’s massive new novel, Freedom, Richard Katz, a commercially and critically neglected punk rocker, forms a new alt-country band called Walnut Surprise. The move pays immediate dividends: Walnut…

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Human Mysteries: Notes on Wallander

In a Brookline, Massachusetts reading last February, Henning Mankell talked about the motivation behind his famed novels. He said that the first Wallander mystery was, in fact, an exploration of…

Alain Mabanckou’s Broken Glass

The author of seven novels and six collections of poetry, Alain Mabanckou is already well known and celebrated across the Francophone world. His novels have been translated into more than…

Zeitoun
by Dave Eggars
Softcover, $15.95
McSweeney's Books
2010

Fitting the Form

On September 6, 2005, in an American city convulsing with chaos, an American citizen of Middle-Eastern descent was detained without charge by the U.S. Army, imprisoned indefinitely in a makeshift…

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Juneteenth: Ralph Ellison’s Three Days Before the Shooting

With the publication of his first and only complete novel in 1952, Ralph Ellison secured his place at the forefront of American literature and history. Invisible Man was an astounding achievement, not…

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