Adelle Waldman

  • Wander Woman

    The usual thing, in book reviewing, is to start with the positive. Polite book reviewers devote most of the allotted space to sympathetic description of the book’s plot, intentions, mise-en-scène, use of language, etc., before pivoting into faint, almost sorrowful criticism, as if the reviewer is pained by her contractual obligation to point out these flaws.

    I’m as guilty of this as the next person. Nevertheless I’d like to reverse the practice here. The first few pages of Lydia Kiesling’s new novel, The Golden State, are not very good, are in fact very nearly bad. They are confusing, alternately

  • Lust Horizons

    EVEN WHEN THEY’RE WELL WRITTEN, most fictional sex scenes are either porny or icky. Consider Updike’s lyrical depictions of the act. They are not only unsexy, they are often, in their strangeness and precision, a bit gross. (A line from Couples: “Sun and spittle set a cloudy froth on her pubic hair.”)

    That’s why I admire Jonathan Franzen’s sex scenes so much. Franzen has managed again and again to pull off what so few writers can—to write explicitly about sex in a way that is stylish and mostly non-cringey without resembling the stuff of Penthouse letters. One of his best descriptions of sex

  • Novel Life-Forms

    What is it about Jane Austen that makes so many writers pay homage to her by rewriting her books? From the film Clueless (based on Emma) to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (Pride and Prejudice) to Cathleen Schine’s novel The Three Weissmanns of Westport (Sense and Sensibility) to Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel, Eligible (P&P again), contemporary adaptations have proven irresistible to a wide range of writers.

    I’ve never quite understood the impulse, not least because I can’t fathom why a writer would deliberately court a comparison so unlikely to be flattering to herself. Perhaps the

  • culture September 26, 2013

    At the Bottom of Everything by Ben Dolnick

    At the heart of At the Bottom of Everything is Adam Sanecki, an appealing yet somewhat callow Ivy League graduate a few years out of school, living in his hometown, Washington. He has spent years trying not to think about his former best friend, Thomas Pell. Adam’s current antipathy extends to Thomas’s parents: he recalls with a wince that he had even, “one especially, unproud morning, turned and speed-walked out of Safeway because I’d seen Thomas’s dad, or someone who looked like Thomas’s dad, rooting around in the bin of red peppers.”