Zoë Heller

The Miserabilist
October 20, 2010

Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl By Donald Sturrock (Simon & Schuster, 655 pp., $30) Roald Dahl, the beloved laureate of modern children’s fiction, who often boasted of his uncanny access to the seven-year-old mind, who preeningly referred to himself in old age as a “geriatric child,” did not actually get around to following his agent’s advice and writing a children’s book until he was well into his forties. Even then he did so grudgingly, and only because his short stories for adults were not selling.

Meet the Parents
July 04, 2005

The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Bad Parenting By Alice Miller Translated by Andrew Jenkins (W.W. Norton, 207 pp., $23.95) A decade or so ago, in The Culture of Complaint, Robert Hughes cited various cultural phenomena as symptoms of a rampant idiocy in American public life. He reserved particular scorn for the popular movement known as "recovery":      As John Bradshaw, Melody Beattie and other gurus      of the twelve-step program are quick to point out      on no evidence whatsoever, 96 percent of American      families are dysfunctional.

Such Nativity
October 29, 2001

Borrowed FineryBy Paula Fox (Hentry Holt and Company, 210 pp. $23)  Despite having been recently re-issued with introductions by modish writers such as Jonathan Franzen and Jonathan Lethem, the six dense little masterpieces that make up Paula Fox's fictional oeuvre still have not penetrated the mainstream. It is unlikely that they ever will. Fox is a tough writer. Even her most devoted fans are often tentative about recommending her work to their friends. She specializes in humid domestic tension, alienation, anomie. She is a poet of appalling moments.

Ariel's Appetite
December 18, 2000

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Karen V. Kukil (Anchor Books, 732 pp., $18)      Saturday exhausted, nerves frayed. Sleepless.      Threw you, book, down, punched with fist.      Kicked, punched. Violence seethed. Joy to      murder someone, pure scapegoat. But pacified      during necessity to work. ... Baked a lemon      meringue pie, cooled lemon custard and crust      on cold bathroom windowsill, stirring in black      night and stars. Set table, candles, glasses      sparkling crystal barred crystal on yellow      woven cloth ...