Emily Gould

  • Wisdom in the Work

    EMILY GOULD: Can you tell us about the process for making your new collection, Taking a Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature, and Feminism in Our Time (Verso, $27)? What went into it and what was left behind?

    VIVIAN GORNICK: A lot got left behind. I don’t know how any writer puts together this kind of a collection. Someone like Janet Malcolm solves the problem by just putting out book after book of collected writing. I don’t think I’m going to do that.

    My devoted editor at Verso, Jessie Kindig, made some suggestions that triggered other suggestions of mine. I didn’t want anything from

  • Isle Be There

    It took me a while to get around to Circe (Back Bay Books, $15), Madeline Miller’s extremely popular 2018 novel told from the perspective of the island-dwelling witch from The Odyssey. Friends had raved about it circa its publication. I’d read one page and put it down, finding it too hard to get into the narrator’s formal, serious Ancient Greekness. Then, two years later, novels featuring contemporary people stopped being able to hold my attention. Characters went to bars and museums, rode the subway, walked around with their faces uncovered. I couldn’t relate. Time to read about an immortal

  • Jagged Little Redpill

    Everyone who’s writing essays professionally these days owes a debt to Meghan Daum, whether they know it or not. Her 2001 collection My Misspent Youth paved the way for many people’s careers, including my own. More than any of her contemporaries, Daum staked a claim on the trickier-than-it-looks style that combines journalistic rigor with exactly the right amount of subtle humor. She wrote about getting deep into debt and continuing to buy flowers from the corner bodega. She coined a term for the existential discomfort of aesthetic wrongness: Wall-to-wall carpet, famously, is “mungers.” She

  • Peep Show

    A fan of Alan Hollinghurst’s masterpiece The Line of Beauty has created a Twitter account, @lollinghurst, to document the many epigrams and sly jokes and thrillingly acute descriptions found throughout that novel. These “lines of beauty” don’t just serve to decorate the book; they are the book. “His lips quivered and pinched with the sarcastic alertness that was his own brand of happiness.” “He felt victimized, and flattered, pretty important and utterly insignificant, since they clearly had no idea who he was.” In The Line of Beauty, Hollinghurst evokes inner states and interior decor with

  • Wouldn’t You Love to Love Her?

    Early in Stephen Davis’s workmanlike unauthorized biography of Stevie Nicks, we witness the circumstances of her most enduring creation’s birth. Twenty-six-year-old Nicks—sick and tired of waitressing; struggling with the controlling behavior of her boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham; fighting to keep their flailing band, Buckingham Nicks, alive—was holed up in sound engineer Keith Olsen’s house. High on LSD—“the only time I ever did it,” Nicks says—she spent three straight days listening to Joni Mitchell’s just-released album Court and Spark on Olsen’s giant speakers. The record inspired her on

  • Ghost World

    Almost all of the characters in George Saunders's first novel are ghosts who haunt Oak Hill cemetery, where their bodies are buried, and the book is told almost wholly in their competing voices. It's like a play in that it is mostly dialogue, but the novel's idiosyncratic spelling and typography make the ghosts' lines seem less like speech than something written or transcribed: a pair of drunken guttersnipes talk mostly in deleted expletives ("st," etc.), a simpleton's dialogue is misspelled evocatively ("not to menshun. . . a grate many"). The rules of this version of the afterlife are revealed

  • This Woman’s Work

    It’s late 2009 and Jen, our heroine, has fallen on hard-ish times: She has been fired from her job as communications officer at a Madoff-scuttled family foundation, where she’s been cozily ignoring her true calling (art?) since graduating from college. When she gets bored of rattling around the cardboardy apartment that she shares with her public-schoolteacher husband, Jim, in an inadequately gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood they call Not Ditmas Park, she accepts an assignment from her college friend Pam to paint some portraits. She then allows her work to be incorporated, gratis, into an

  • Brood Disorder

    Barbara Comyns was born in 1909, the fourth of six children, to a very eccentric mother and father who lived in a large house in a small English town called Bidford-on-Avon. On a map of England, this town appears to be at the exact center, about two hours outside London, and if you look more closely—say, via Google Earth—you get an impression of almost impossible quaintness, a village of Tudor cottages and ancient stone bridges and charming pubs alongside a peaceful tree-lined river. Barbara Comyns’s first and third novels, Sisters by a River (1947) and Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (1954),

  • Scents and Sensibility

    I came of age during the perfume-averse ’90s, when the world was still reeling from an overdose of Poison the decade before and had therefore decided that it was better not to smell like anything, or to smell very slightly lemony. CK One, the unisex fragrance with that memorable tagline, offered men and women alike the pleasing anonymity of air-conditioned air pumped into a nice hotel. It was also maybe OK to smell like nature, or some slightly candied replica thereof, but if someone had complimented teen me on my Bath & Body Works Flowering Herbs body spray by saying “I like your perfume,” I