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December 2013
AS LONG AS WE CAN BEAR IT
Salmagundi







September 2013
NORMAN RUSH HAS A WOMAN PROBLEM
The New Republic
There is no other voice in contemporary fiction like the narrator of Mating, Norman Rush's first novel. An American graduate student doing anthropological work in Botswana, she speaks in a fragrant mix of high and low: polylingual slang and bons mots, academic jargon, allusions to Freud and Shakespeare, an unsqueamish earthiness.




June 2013
THE "LOTTERY" LETTERS
The New Yorker
When Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery" was first published, in the June 26, 1948, issue of this magazine, Miriam Friend was a young mother living in Roselle, New Jersey, with her husband, a chemical engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project.





January 2013
THIS IS NOT A FILM & A SEPARATION
Salmagundi







December 2012
THE POWER AND THE ALLEGORY
Bookforum
A book of interviews captures the life and times of Madeleine L'Engle.






October 2012
PATIENCE (AFTER SEBALD)
Salmagundi







04 October 2012
THE IDENTITY CRISIS OF ZADIE SMITH
The New Republic
In college, Zadie Smith began to lose her voice. When she "went up" to Cambridge--the British use a phrase suggesting ascension for enrollment at university--from the working-class neighborhood in northwest London where she grew up, she picked up a new way of speaking, "along with the unabridged Clarissa and a taste for port."




03 October 2012
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS: J.K. ROWLING'S SECOND ACT
The New Republic
It's not Harry Potter--let's just get that out of the way first. The Casual Vacancy is so different from J.K. Rowling's mega-selling children's book series that one wonders if Rowling deliberately tried to make her first novel for adults conform as little as possible to her readers' expectations.




30 July 2012
IMP OF THE PERVERSE
The New Yorker
In the summer of 1939, the writer Witold Gombrowicz set sail from Poland, on the ocean liner Chrobry, on what he thought would be a brief mission as a cultural ambassador to the Polish community in Argentina.





06 July 2012
GROWING UP IN THE RUBBLE
The Wall Street Journal
The ordeals of Poland's Jews during World War II are now well-known. But what happened afterward to those who were lucky enough to return is not nearly so carefully chronicled or broadly familiar.





May 2012
THE PARTY'S OVER
Bookforum
The rise and fall of Communist playwright and memoirist Lillian Hellman.






18 April 2012
HOW A NEW CLIP OF ANNE FRANK'S LIFE BRINGS US CLOSER TO HER DEATH
The New Republic
The video lasts all of twenty seconds. We see the doorway of a nondescript apartment building, several stories high, and neighbors above peering curiously down. A newlywed couple proceed down the steps: The groom wears a top hat and formal suit, the bride carries a lavish bouquet. The camera pans up, and there she is, instantly recognizable. It's Anne Frank.




04 April 2012
WHY THE LITERARY LANDSCAPE CONTINUES TO DISADVANTAGE WOMEN
The New Republic
Watching the outpouring of grief and reflection over the death of Adrienne Rich last week, I admit, to my shame, that I was surprised. Surprised not because of any judgment about Rich's poetry, which I barely know, but because I had thought of her as an icon of another era.




21 March 2012
SOME WORKS OF ART CAN'T BE LABELED AS FACT OR FICTION, AND THAT'S OK
The New Republic
Like wolves and teenagers, literary scandals travel in packs, and the first of the spring are already upon us.






07 March 2012
WAS 'FRANKENSTEIN' REALLY ABOUT CHILDBIRTH?
The New Republic
Frankenstein is one of the great creation myths of all time: a scientist, drunk on knowledge and possibility, discovers the secret of animating matter and energizes a monstrous creature, which proceeds to wreak havoc on his life and that of everyone he loves. Perhaps inevitably, the novel has engendered its own creation myth, one that is nearly as uncanny as the tale of the monster itself.




22 February 2012
NO BOOK WILL FIX WHAT'S WRONG WITH AMERICAN PARENTING
The New Republic
The other day, a friend and I were walking down a crowded sidewalk when we noticed a little boy of about three. We noticed him not because he was adorable (though he was), but because he was hitting his father with a giant stick.





17 February 2012
WHEN RISKY IS RIGHT
The Wall Street Journal
When evil or corruption are the status quo, what is it that moves some individuals -- defying the pressure to conform -- to do good deeds? Eyal Press considers four case studies in "Beautiful Souls."




08 February 2012
A REQUIEM TO AN AGE OF BRILLIANT POLISH POETRY
The New Republic
Poland in the postwar era was a supremely unlucky nation, but in one respect (and perhaps one only) it was among the world's luckiest. This unassuming country produced three of the greatest European poets of the last half-century.





29 January 2012
LOST GIRL
The Daily
I used to read Caitlin Flanagan's articles with the same mixture of fascination and dread that I might have felt, in high school, upon discovering the diary of a person who particularly disliked me open to a page detailing all my own shortcomings.





25 January 2012
THE TRUE LIES OF TOTALITARIAN NORTH KOREA
The New Republic
When the videos of North Koreans weeping hysterically in the streets of Pyongyang circulated on YouTube last month in the wake of Kim Jong-il's death, few Western onlookers knew what to make of them.





20 January 2012
REVISITING SHAKESPEARE'S 'CORIOLANUS'
The New York Times Magazine
Some women swoon for swashbuckling Antony or bodice-ripping Othello, but I've always had a soft spot for prideful, imperious Coriolanus. Next to Shakespeare's other tragic figures, who sometimes sound like Freudian case studies, he comes across as downright noble.




11 January 2012
WAIT, IS MIRANDA JULY'S BOOK FICTION OR NON-FICTION?
The New Republic
If the whole project is essentially voyeuristic, though, July's generous, sincere interest in the human condition makes up for it somewhat. She laments that the modern city, especially L.A., is designed to preclude random encounters: "If someone isn't in my house or in my car we'll never be together, not even for a moment."




30 December 2011
LITERARY RESOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR
The New Republic
Last year, I gave the traditional New Year's resolutions a literary spin by resolving to become a better reader in 2011. Now it's time to take stock. Did I keep my promises? And what should I resolve to do this year?