Alice Gregory

  • Benign Lives

    Late last year, I read Shirley Hazzard’s 1980 novel The Transit of Venus for the first time. It moved me to a degree no book ever has. It was more a life event than a reading experience. And so I read it again. And then I read it once more. And then, as a prophylactic against reading it for a fourth time, I read all her other books.

    In The Bay of Noon, Hazzard’s novel from a decade earlier, Jenny, a young NATO employee stationed in Naples just after World War II, wanders the city alone. Though cowed by its strange and archaic beauty, she betrays none of her aesthetic excitement. Jenny passes

  • culture January 31, 2012

    New Impressions

    “Whatever I wrote was surrounded by rays of light,” a young Raymond Roussel told his psychoanalyst, Pierre Janet. “I used to close the curtains, for I was afraid that the shining rays emanating from my pen might escape into the outside world through even the smallest chink; I wanted suddenly to throw back the screen and light up the world.” Roussel was speaking literally, and Janet, who would treat Roussel for years, was taking notes.

    Though nobody knows for sure, it’s suspected that Roussel first started seeing Janet in the years just before World War I, almost a decade after that first

  • syllabi July 13, 2011

    Gender Troubles

    To write fiction is to challenge the most basic of human facts: that we don't have access to other people’s minds. Authors are more able than most to ignore the audacity of occupying other selves, though—it's in their job description. And what's a more obvious challenge than assuming the consciousness of the opposite gender?

    That some of our most canonized heroines—Clarissa Harlowe, Isabel Archer, Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina—are products of male imaginations is not surprising. With nowhere to go besides the parlor and nothing to do but read accounts of people they would never meet, women were