Ed Park

  • All the President’s Women

    I LOVE NOVELS WITH INCREDIBLE review quotes on the cover, the kind that make you feel around for your wallet. Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, for one, lured me with a doozy by William Kennedy from the New York Times Book Review, who called it “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the human race.” The best quotes follow you around as you read, subtly inflecting your experience, perhaps even shaping your final, favorable judgment. (“Hey—this is kind of like the Book of Genesis!”) 

    Years ago, studying the paperback of

  • culture August 16, 2022

    The Go-Between

    For a writer whose most visible work, Dictée, brims with saints and martyrdom and the possibilities of productive anguish, it’s fitting that Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s disparate uncollected writings—everything from artists’ books to typewritten disjecta membra—should give off the refulgent glow of relics set against plain white cloth. Since there will be no new writing from the late author, every word counts. Indeed, for an artist so committed to permutations of language—to literally mincing words, teasing meanings from amputations, one character at a time—every letter counts. Is a crossed-out

  • The Ice Storm

    LAST FEBRUARY, with the NHL’s 2020–21 pandemic-shortened season just a month old, The Atlantic published an impertinent provocation: “Hockey Has a Gigantic-Goalie Problem.” The title was literal. Ken Dryden’s piece traced the sport’s arms race, as the refinement of the slap shot and the switch from wooden sticks to lighter composites turned pucks into lethal missiles. This required additional padding for the netkeeper, while the dimensions of his domain remained the same. Amid a worldwide health crisis, Dryden’s jeremiad made it sound like oversize equipment jeopardized the spirit of the game,

  • Fortress of Solitude

    A DECADE AND A HALF AGO, a book so enchanted me that it was hard to pull away. If I were to get any of my own work done, I needed to hide it. (The book was very long, over eight hundred pages; I didn’t have the time.) But the tome kept jumping back into my hands. I could have given it away, of course, or simply tossed the thing, but surely at some point—when this oppressive spell of work was over—I’d want to dive back in. I had only finished a third, perhaps less. One day, I came across a length of twine, and instantly its purpose was apparent to me: I neatly tied the fat book up, quartering

  • culture August 12, 2019

    David Berman (1967–2019)

    Three writers pay tribute to the poet and songwriter David Berman, who passed away last week. Berman was the inimitable force behind the bands the Silver Jews and, most recently, Purple Mountains. His book of poems, Actual Air, was published by the books arm of the legendary Open City in 1999, and remains a cult classic.


    By Christian Lorentzen

    There’s long been an urge to believe that rock ’n’ roll is, or can, or could, or should, be poetry. It was the impulse behind the Nobel Prize for Literature awarded in 2016 to Bob Dylan, and it’s the reason we’ve seen lines

  • Dance Dance Evolution

    WHEN WAS the last time you picked up Sweet Charlatan, Frost in May, Is She a Lady?, or The Departure Platform? Do the names John Heygate (author of Decent Fellows), Inez Holden (Born Old, Died Young), or Jocelyn Brooke (Mine of Serpents) ring a bell? One side effect of reading Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time, Hilary Spurling’s biography of the long-lived (1905–2000) British novelist, is realizing how many writers in his various circles have passed entirely out of civilized memory. Doubly sobering, for some of us, is the possibility that his books might be joining this invisible

  • Antics Roadshow


    OF THE FEW real-life intrusions into The Solitary Twin, the final novel by Harry Mathews, the most unexpected is a cameo by a certain billionaire mayor. Apparently Michael Bloomberg has been a regular visitor to the remote town where the book takes place. Situated “at the end of the world,” New Bentwick was smartly planned by “enlightened capitalists” in the late 1800s and has run like clockwork ever since, without a single murder staining its ledgers.

    In the twenty-first century, some of its civic leaders fire up an “innovation lab” to “find ways of renovating the world.” That’s where

  • The Crying of West 79th Street

    Bless an author with a long enough career, and even the most outcast elements can get a second chance. In Thomas Pynchon’s encyclopedic, pull-out-the-stops first novel, V. (1963), the Upper West Side merits only a withering dismissal:

    This was on Broadway in the 80’s, which is not the Broadway of Show Biz, or even a broken heart for every light on it. Uptown was a bleak district with no identity, where a heart never does anything so violent or final as break: merely gets increased tensile, compressive, shear loads piled on it bit by bit every day till eventually

  • Rated P. G.

    Five years ago, anticipating the birth of my first child, I went to the hospital (my wife came along, incidentally) with only one book tucked into the suitcase: P. G. Wodehouse’s Lord Emsworth and Others (hereafter L.E.A.O.). Its very title suggested grab-baggery, lighter-than-light reading—just another in the line of ninety-odd books of fiction that the British author wrote between his 1902 debut and his death in 1975. I can’t remember a word, only that there were golf stories, some tales from the Drones Club, and that it closes with an exploit or two of the mercenary Ukridge, arguably my

  • The Farce Side

    In Sweden, according to Lars Arffssen's recent novel, "Nordic Dullness Syndrome" affects millions. The country's mores are hard to parse: While "semi-consensual intercourse with a drowsy woman" constitutes a despicable crime, its citizens conduct adulterous affairs so nonchalantly that the husband is often sitting in the same room, distracted by his iPad. The book's delirious plotlines extend to an IKEA-like company's shadowy past, but the central mystery gets announced early on: "Why would anyone want to decapitate an unpublished author of Swedish thrillers?"

    Arffssen's The Girl with the

  • Only Disconnect


    Painting a word-picture of a woman at a restaurant, the titular narrator of British author Jonathan Coe’s new novel, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, writes, “She had long black hair, slightly wild and unkempt. A thin face, with prominent cheekbones.” Prominent cheekbones? Just as the cliché meter is warming up, Max adds a parenthetical: “(Sorry, I am just not very good at describing people.)” This self-deprecation is enough to win us over, and it lets Max off the hook to unleash a few more lines of workmanlike, tentative details . . . prompting another aside: “(I am not very good at

  • Typo Analysis

    For about five years, beginning in 1995, I worked on the copy desk at the Village Voice. Aiding me in the battle against error were Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the fourteenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, published in 1993, and a samizdat-looking document containing the house style rules and bearing the enigmatic title “Small Craft Warnings.” At any given moment one or all of these vade mecums lay open on my desk; the answer for anything could be found therein.

    It was Chicago that I consulted the most. Myriad hyphenation issues could be resolved by consulting table 6.1,

  • syllabi May 20, 2009

    Comic Novels

    Nabokov urged us to read with our spines, to savor the tingle that the best writing brings. I tell the students in my comic-novel seminar to read with their funny bones. (Unfortunately, my suggestion that they mark the first point at which they chuckled audibly led to a paralyzing, nearly class-wide self-consciousness.) You won’t find Lucky Jim or A Confederacy of Dunces on this syllabus, for the simple fact that, despite their virtues, they’ve never made me laugh out loud the way the following titles always do, even after multiple readings, when nothing should surprise me.

    Ed Park is a founding


    Just over one hundred pages long, Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine is a document that could, with a little effort, be ripped from its spine, stuffed inside a large bottle, and tossed end over end into the sea. The publishing history of Stanley Crawford’s sad, serene fiction resembles the fate of a message so transmitted, a hermetically sealed SOS riding out the decades. First issued by Knopf in 1972, the novel resurfaced sixteen years later thanks to Living Batch Press, with an aggressively drab cover resembling that of a Dover Thrift Edition. Now Dalkey has netted it from oblivion once

  • Venal Colony

    The plain, even soporific titles of Matthew Sharpe’s books—Stories from the Tube (1998), Nothing Is Terrible (2000), The Sleeping Father (2003), and now Jamestown—belie one of the most energetic and laudably fluid prose styles going. On any given page, Sharpe can swing contagious exuberance (“How unpleasant and interesting it is to be alive!”) and aphoristic head-scratchers, shrewd pop-culture quotation and hairpin dialogue, the brilliant joke and the dumb joke and the dumb joke repeated enough times that it becomes brilliant. His breakthrough novel, The Sleeping Father, engineers a nuclear-family