Craig Seligman

  • Ladies Man

    Adam Thirlwell loves to write about sex. It’s is the central activity in The Escape, upholstered—like everything else in this allusive, philosophical, melancholy comedy—in mock-heroic chutzpah. Thirlwell’s word choices are showy, his phrasing bravura: “They had sat in the rose garden, in the pale sunshine, a police siren tumescing and detumescing in the background. . . . A tree was leafing through itself, anxiously.”

    The novel takes place “in the final year of the twentieth century,” in a spa town somewhere in the former Czechoslovakia. Its hero, an elderly Jewish banker named Raphael Haffner,

  • Sapphic Signals

    This is it?” I asked myself several times as I made my way through Susan Sontag’s diaries. By the end, I’d stopped carping; in fact, I had the feeling they had exploded in my hands. Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947–1963, edited by Sontag’s son, David Rieff, is the first in a three-volume selection from the writer’s private papers, covering her prefame years, up to the age of thirty. The entries are generally short and frequently trivial (though not uninteresting)—movies seen, books to buy, lists of words and terms to learn, not all of them recondite:



    The work of António Lobo Antunes is held in such high regard that when José Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize, in 1998, there was grumbling that it had gone to the wrong Portuguese writer. Only about half of Lobo Antunes’s sixteen novels have made it into English, though. Now, Gregory Rabassa has translated his 2001 What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire? in a version so (predictably) elegant that at times I wondered whether the lowlife drag queens and junkies who people it sound so immaculate in the original.

    The style is poetic stream-of-consciousness, with voices melting and melding

  • A Cold Case

    Robert Frost became a monster in 1966. That was the year Lawrance Thompson finally brought out the first volume of his authorized biography (two more followed, in 1970 and ’76)—an account that Brian Hall, the author of the novel Fall of Frost, calls a mauling. Frost had given Thompson the go-ahead in 1939, when he was already elderly (he was born in 1874), with the stipulation that publication await his death. And then, uncooperatively, he lived on. And on. Resentments grew, and by the time he did die, in 1963, at the age of eighty-eight, the two men hated each other.

    Subsequent biographers