From her obituaries, and the serious critical assessments of her work, I hardly recognize the Doris Lessing I knew. I don’t fault the obit writers (I used to be one) or critics and admirers for attempting the tricky job of collating into a coherent narrative the Bunyanesque episodes and human contradictions in Lessing’s life and work. Indeed, it was not the later “Great Author” who I knew, but a young, romantic, passionate, fiercely ambitious single mother pounding away at a portable typewriter trying—as we all did—to keep it together.
October 10, 1928: Lewis Mumford on Herman Melville's legacy
"Call me Ishmael," the first sentence in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, is one of the most recognized opening lines in American literature. It's ascendency into not just literary, but cultural notoriety, began 162 years today, with the first publication of Melville's story of the white whale.
Capturing the zeitgeist is something of an obsession for Dave Eggers. His work includes a recession-era treatise on the everyman’s dwindling power in American life, the near-biography of a Hurricane Katrina survivor (labelled nonfiction), the near-biography of a Sudanese child soldier (labelled fiction), and a film that wistfully captured the horrors of fracking. If you’ve read it about it in The New York Times Sunday Review, chances are Dave Eggers has considered it as source material.
December 8, 1926
The recent revival of interest in Poe has brought to light a good deal of new information about him and supplied us for the first time with a serious interpretation of his personal career, but it has so far entirely failed to explain why we should still want to read him.
March 9, 1987
A new film and biography of J.D. Salinger claim to reveal new information about the reclusive writer's life—including new work. In 1987, Andrew Delbanco reviewed another Salinger biography and the "unsquelchable" rumor of unpublished work.
Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury was born on this day in 1920. While now heralded as one of the best science fiction writers ever, Bradbury initially struggled to get stories published. Below, he talks about his early years and writing through rejection. Image via Shutterstock.
March 21, 1923
Honoré de Balzac, the great giant of French Realism, died 163 years ago today. In his honor, an assessment of the importance of realism in French literature, as originally published in The New Republic.
July 5, 1922
On August 16, 1922, Virginia Woolf penned a passage in her diary panning James Joyce's Ulysses. But New Republic editor Edmund Wilson would have disagreed with her—he, instead, praised it as a "work of high genius." In memoriam of Woolf's legendary take-down, a reprint of Wilson's original review.
April 1, 1936
In 1936, Thomas Mann finally broke his silence on a new, Nazi Germany. Here, The New Republic editors' original statement in support of Mann's bold choice.
All summer I've been manacled to my desk writing a book about a former friend of mine, the impostor and convicted killer known to the world and the media as Clark Rockefeller. For almost ten years, between 1998 and 2008, when he kidnapped his noncustodial daughter and was unmasked as a German national, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, and a suspect in a gruesome cold-case murder dating back to 1985, I took "Clark" at face value—his own inflated face value.