Andrea Walker

  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing

    The eight stories in Lydia Peelle’s debut collection are remarkable for their clarity and precision. Set primarily in the dwindling forests and farmland surrounding Nashville, Tennessee, they concern the estrangement between modern life and nature, unsettling the reader’s hope for an easy reconciliation between the two.

    The opening story, “Mule Killers,” involves the arrival of tractors at a family farm and the elimination of traditional animal labor. The tale is told in retrospect, when the narrator’s father is eighteen and still outgrowing his boyish love for Orphan Lad, a mule he rides to


    Each of Stacey D’Erasmo’s three psychologically intricate novels begins with a crisis. In Tea, her 2000 debut, an eight-year-old girl is asked to bring a cup of tea to her mother, who is taking a bath; when the next section opens, we come to understand that the woman has since committed suicide. In A Seahorse Year (2004), a San Francisco couple cope with the disappearance of their teenage son, who has ominously left a knife stuck into the floorboards of his room; they soon learn that he is schizophrenic. Now, in The Sky Below, D’Erasmo starts with a trauma that is more subtle—a young boy named

  • Harry, Revised

    The protagonist of Harry, Revised, Mark Sarvas’s debut novel, is a Bel Air radiologist whose trappings (he drives a Jaguar and lives in a $2.8 million house) are in marked contrast to his bumbling, insecure nature. Paunchy and middle-aged, Harry Rent is a perennial avoider of confrontation—“he’s always found it easier to deny, to disavow, and to disengage”—which is the reason his eight-year marriage to the pretty, poised, and moneyed Anna Weldt has deteriorated into a state of benumbed complacency. When Anna dies during cosmetic surgery (she was having a her breasts augmented, in part to

  • Returning Point

    Tessa Hadley’s third novel is her most ambitious and successful to date, marking a return to the taut form of her much-lauded 2002 debut, Accidents in the Home. (Hadley’s second and oft-criticized book, Everything Will Be All Right [2003], was a lumbering multigenerational saga that may come to occupy the place that The Years does in Virginia Woolf’s oeuvre—an experimental text later seen as anomalous in light of the author’s more powerfully compressed style.) Offering only four main characters in The Master Bedroom, Hadley can engage in deeper moral and psychological scrutiny of each.


  • Goth: Undead Subculture and Contemporary Gothic

    In the small Pennsylvania town where I grew up, the windows of the Gap, the national purveyor of affordable and non-threatening attire, are papered over and a to lease sign has been posted. But across from this empty storefront, Hot Topic is booming. Discordant music pours from an arched entrance meant to resemble a dungeon, and the red-and-purple-striped tights and silver-studded jewelry here sell for double the price of khakis and blue button-downs. That goth attire flourishes while more mainstream options languish is a cultural phenomenon on which academics have finally set their sights—with