Heroin doesn’t sound like “heroine” by accident. The name for the drug derives from “hero,” or “heroes,” as in the late nineteenth-century soldiers on morphine who fought through their injuries and floated home. The same then-legal morphine was popular among women of the upper classes,
The speakers at the Conference of Negro-African Writers and Artists, held in Paris in September 1956, included Richard Wright, Alioune Diop, Léopold Senghor, and Aimé Césaire. James Baldwin was also there, albeit as a journalist. He was taking notes for a report that would be published in Encounter
“A scurvy thirst awoke him,” begins Lisa Dillman’s translation of Yuri Herrera’s new novel, The Transmigration of Bodies, as though someone had changed her settings to “English (Pirate).” It’s a deliberately confusing effect. Herrera’s short novels observe the violence of contemporary Mexico
Lydia Millet’s new novel, Sweet Lamb of Heaven, begins with an unwanted pregnancy. Its heroine, Anna, is a virtuous, long-suffering suburban wife. Her sole mistake in life was in her choice of husband; despite herself, she fell in love with a charismatic but predatory businessman who was less attracted
Rebecca Schiff’s debut story collection, The Bed Moved, is a shorter-than-average book of shorter-than-average fictions about misanthropes who are (or may as well be) near-miss versions of each other, all of whom find the same pained comedy in sex, death, Brooklyn, Judaism, and summer camp. The title
It’s late 2009 and Jen, our heroine, has fallen on hard-ish times: She has been fired from her job as communications officer at a Madoff-scuttled family foundation, where she’s been cozily ignoring her true calling (art?) since graduating from college. When she gets bored of rattling around the
A Lebanese pharmacist concocts a mysterious green potion that makes him sexually irresistible to his female customers. An architect dreams all day of emigration while playing a computer game simulating the demolition of downtown Beirut. A son rescues his father’s favorite prostitute, a woman who
For some time I’ve wondered how Michel Houellebecq’s Submission would play when it arrived here in the States, nearly a year removed from its tumultuous publication in France. In that country, of course, it appeared the same morning that terrorists slaughtered much of the editorial staff of Charlie
“The feuilleton,” Joseph Roth once declared to his editor at the Frankfurter Zeitung, “is just as important to the paper as its politics. . . . I don’t write ‘witty glosses.’ I paint the portrait of the age. That ought to be the job of the great newspaper.” Michael Hofmann, who has, over the past
The plot of Clancy Martin’s new novel, Bad Sex, is rickety; it makes the narrative sway. Brett, a writer, is married to Paul, a hotelier with kids. The couple live in Mexico City. When a storm hits Cancún, Brett goes to check on a property there. By chance, her husband’s banker, Eduard, is also
Lucia Berlin was born November 12, 1936, and she died on November 12 sixty-eight years later, which suggests a tidiness to her time on this earth that her time on this earth certainly did not exhibit. She lived in Alaska, Chile, Mexico, and the American Southwest, loved her sister and loathed her
At a time when the notion of a poetic career—with its requisite curriculum vitae, residencies, prize panels, and sabbaticals—has long been in ascendancy, it can seem almost quaint to recall that poverty or a sad demise was once a not-uncommon fate for a poet (think Keats, Rimbaud, Sylvia Plath,
When I was asked to review Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity, I happened to be in the middle of Timothy Aubry’s Reading as Therapy: What Contemporary Fiction Does for Middle-Class Americans (2011). Aubry argues that middle-class readers “choose books that will offer strategies for . . .
Your soul mate is emotionally unavailable. He’s a bastard! He’s a narcissist. (So are you.) He’s great in bed, but he’s a workaholic. He’s an alcoholic. He’s a junkie. In strictly mechanical terms, your apartment is literally too small to have sex in. Let’s not talk about the size of your heart.
Joy Williams wears sunglasses day and night. She does not own a computer and she corresponds by postcard. She can be irascible in interviews (one poor interviewer admitted he “cringe[d]” to publish the interview uncut because of her little digs at him). A real live kook, she is widely admired by