When famous authors write to each other
The best correspondences, like the best friendships, have a plot. Or, if not a plot, some elements of one: a little tension, a climax or two, a surprising reveal. READ MORE >>
Why do so many novelists write about visual art?
The title character in Marisa Silver’s new novel, Mary Coin, is based on the subject in Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange’s famous photograph of Florence Owens. READ MORE >>
How much do you want to know about your gut?
It is one of the paradoxes of our culture that while food itself is an object of desire, the mechanics of eating—in the abstract, anyway—really gross us out. Chewing, salivating, and digesting, never mind excreting, are aspects of a meal we do our best to forget as we pore over photos of toast with ramp butter and quail’s eggs or slow-braised veal shank. We are in collective denial about what ingesting a meal really entails. READ MORE >>
A few summers ago, I served as a chaplain at a large, urban hospital. Some patients came for brief stays, others for long periods, and some left only when they took their leave from this life. Patients let me into their lives one conversation and, often, one prayer at a time. Some celebrated, others mourned; many wept, and a few rejoiced at the lives they had already led or hoped to live when they returned to the world outside of the hospital. READ MORE >>
Is peace possible?
Will Afghanistan, which has been at war since 1978—thirty-four years, or a period longer than the two world wars and the intervening years combined—finally see a minimal kind of peace before American forces leave next year? Can the United States focus enough diplomatic energy to help generate a cease-fire and a political deal between Kabul, Islamabad, and the Taliban? READ MORE >>
In June 1880, Fyodor Dostoevsky spoke before a monument to Alexander Pushkin, newly erected in Moscow, proclaiming Pushkin a “unique phenomenon of the Russian spirit.” To Dostoevsky at least, Pushkin’s monumental meaning was transparent. It was his national genius: “No single Russian writer, before or after him, ever associated himself so intimately and fraternally with his people as Pushkin.” READ MORE >>
Immigrant literature—that rather crass term—has come to mean literature by the immigrant. But the effects of migration are, of course, felt not just by those doing the moving and resettling, but also by those who receive them. And yet, for every Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, Gish Jen, Edwidge Danticat, or Julia Alvarez—or any of the notables who write, loosely, from a non-native-born perspective—it’s hard to name an American author who speaks for the settled communities where new arrivals land. READ MORE >>
Consider Charles Boatwright. His name is one of the charming pseudonyms from the vignettes in George Vaillant’s new book, Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study. Boatwright grew up with a manic-depressive father and was married to a miserable woman for 30-odd years, but he almost always called himself happy. READ MORE >>
New works alter his image as a disinterested aesthete
Reading a play by a great novelist is sort of like listening to Marilyn Manson plow through the Great American Songbook: You thrill at the prospect of colossal failure while also secretly hoping to be surprised. READ MORE >>
Roger Ailes wanted a friendly biography. Zev Chafets was just the man for the job.
“I asked Roger, ‘Why’d you agree to let me do the book?’” Zev Chafets told me yesterday. We were speeding up Central Park West in a News Corp.–provided town car. “And he said, ‘Because you have a kind face.’ I laughed.” The 60-something Chafets, whose goateed face actually is somewhat kind, laughed again now, and continued. “He said, ‘I also checked you out.’ And what he checked out, obviously, was that I am not a guy who has a hard-on for people like Roger Ailes.” READ MORE >>