On Fiction

Mythomania: Zachary Mason’s Fantasies

Odysseus suffers—if that’s the word for it—from a perpetual fascination with his own cleverness, and The Odyssey thoroughly documents its hero’s indulgence in this fascination: Odysseus constantly dares, playing with…

Soprascarpa di Gomma: Poisonville

In 1929, a year before his classic The Maltese Falcon was published, Dashiell Hammett began his debut novel Red Harvest with these two lines: “I first heard Personville called Poisonville…

Off-beat: Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist

Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist is a strange book: part idiosyncratic poetry manual, part disconnected personal narrative. The first line of the novel, if you can comfortably call it that, pulls…

Violence & Evasion: the Novels of Margarita Karapanou

In an interview I once conducted with the Greek writer Amanda Michalopoulou, author of the short story collection I’d Like (Dalkey, 2008), the question of literary precursors came about, and in particular…

Dribbles, Drabbles, Micro- & Flash (Oh my)

Frances Theodora Parsons’ How to Know the Wild Flowers—written under the pseudonym Mrs. William Star Dana, published in 1893, and acknowledged as the first true “field guide”—begins with a brief section…

Enmeshed in War: Evelio Rosero’s The Armies

Colombia is almost certainly among the most difficult places on Earth for an outsider to understand. For forty years, the country has been embroiled in a civil war that pits…

The Closed Circuit Game: a Hippie Noir

The end ennobles every act. — Honoré de Balzac, “The Atheist” But wait, there’s more! — Ed Valenti Thomas Pynchon is too difficult. He is overly tortuous (and torturous). In…

London Flambé: Monica Ali in the Kitchen

One need only take a brief look at the TV Guide or the magazine aisle at the supermarket to know that we are a culture recently obsessed with kitchens, celebrity chefs, and…

To Wit’s End Postmodern Fiction?

I was sent Karen Joy Fowler’s new novel Wit’s End (published in Great Britain under the titleThe Case of the Imaginary Detective) by someone from Penguin, who had noticed from my own…

Writing Out of Time: J.M.G. Le Clézio

J.M.G. Le Clézio is an adherent of extreme environments. The author spent about one-third of his Nobel speech fondly recounting his travels through the Darién Gap, the mostly lawless and…

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