From Lysistrata to Don Quixote to Catch-22, literary comedy works best when a black heart beats beneath the hilarity. The comedic impulse is always transgressive, always an alternate avenue to the two tragic truths at the center of our existence: suffering and death. Levity must be rooted in
From Hanne Blank comes a chewy piece of scholarship—Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality (Beacon)—that puts a spin on the hip-hop catchphrase "no homo," explaining that there was no hetero until social science and pseudo-science invented a need in the middle of the 19th
Early in his biography of the defiantly unorthodox poet William Carlos Williams, Herbert Leibowitz makes it clear that he intends to be just as unconventional as his subject. In the book's first chapter, Leibowitz, the longtime editor of the literary magazine Parnassus, mounts a sustained assault on
Five years ago, I flew to England to see the grand opening of something improbable: an attraction called Dickens World. It promised to be an "authentic" re-creation of the London of Charles Dickens's novels, complete with soot, pickpockets, cobblestones, gas lamps, animatronic Dickens characters and
I first came to know William Gaddis at a writers' conference in the Soviet Union in 1985. I had heard that he was shy and averse to publicity, but I found that this reputation was based only on his belief that a writer's life and personality should be as little as possible associated with his work.
In his debut novel, Never Mind, published in 1992, the English writer Edward St. Aubyn pokes fun at one of his creations, a distinguished philosopher modeled loosely on A. J. Ayer: "Just as a novelist may sometimes wonder why he invents characters who do not exist and makes them do things
Brazil's capital city, Brasilia, conceived by modernist architect Lucio Costa, was built in the late 1950s on what had been an unpopulated desert. Costa envisioned a city in which urban design enabled the existence of an ideal society, a utopian notion that deflated when confronted with reality.
Isaiah Berlin split intellectuals into two groups: foxes, who know a great deal about many things, and hedgehogs, who know one big thing. But I wonder if there isn’t a third type, too, mysterious and misunderstood: the individual who knows a great deal about one thing—and that thing is herself.
Leela, the young exotic dancer at the center of "Beautiful Thing," is a genius of vulgarity. In this intimate and valuable book of literary reportage by Sonia Faleiro nearly every word out of Leela's mouth is spit like a cartoon hornet. Few of these sentences, alas, are publishable here.
On December 9, 2011, the ABC News program 20/20 aired a dramatic report from India, presented by the show’s Emmy Award–winning anchor Elizabeth Vargas. In an uncharacteristically long piece devoted to social issues in a foreign country not recently liberated from tyranny by an American