Donna Seaman

  • The Girl with Brown Fur

    There’s no making nice here, no way of easing into this writer’s sensibility. In The Girl with Brown Fur, Stacey Levine ignores lyricism as an evolutionary dead end. Life is fractious and dire, her prose style says; let fiction serve as razor and torch. It’s not that Levine isn’t funny or that she doesn’t forge phrases and sentences of throat-clutching beauty. It’s just that her effort to dissect humankind’s propensity for neuroses, fallacies, and other inanities requires measured drollery and surgical concision. And because her characters are pathologically ill at ease within their dysfunctional

  • The Bishop’s Daughter

    Honor Moore could be said to walk barefoot on broken glass in her poems as well as in accounts of her family history, as though discovering hidden truths were a searing ordeal. Pain is a dark radiance in Moore’s work, but it is subsumed by the strong current of her curiosity, by compassionate analysis, and by pleasure in expressing complex feelings in supple language. And not only are her tales of family dramatic and provocative, they also compose a microcosm of American history.

    In the biography The White Blackbird (1996), Moore portrayed her maternal grandmother, Margarett Sargent, an


    A beautiful man with violet eyes sequesters himself in a language lab and masters ten tongues yet barely has a word to say for himself. Abel Nema, whose last name, we’re told, translates as “the mute” or “the barbarian,” is a fugitive from a land that no longer exists, living a hand-to-mouth existence in an unnamed European country. Often lost, Abel is periodically deranged, bisexual in his appeal, and a magnet for mayhem; his natural state is ambiguity. In Day In Day Out, Terézia Mora—a fiction writer, playwright, and translator born in Hungary in 1971 who’s lived in Germany since 1990— has

  • Boxcars, Shostakovich, and the Poor

    William T. Vollmann has traveled to unforgiving and turbulent places in search of insights into the human condition, conducted exhaustive research, and written epic works that commingle genres, deepen our perception of history, intensify our sense of empathy, and complicate our moral equations. Feverishly prodigious and protean, Vollmann is fascinated by symbiosis and the pairings of opposites, and he himself projects a complexly bifurcated sensibility. He is saintly in his devotion to people who are marginalized and maligned and is martyrlike in his zeal to write to the point of physical

  • Interviewing the Interviewers


    BOOKFORUM: How do you prepare for your interviews with writers?

    TERRY GROSS: I completely mark up the books I read. I circle everything I think is important or intriguing. I earmark just about every other page. My notes become a memory bank. I return to them to reflect on the book, and hopefully a picture emerges, like developing film, to guide me in the interview.

    BF: What do you focus on when you speak with fiction writers? How do you avoid emphasizing the plot and giving too much away?

    TG: I try not to get too involved in the intricacies of a novel because it’s a world the