Fiona Maazel

  • The Drama of the Gifted Children

    Fifty pages into this novel—Susan Choi’s fifth—I was ready to write about it. I understood its design and I admired its execution. So let’s just start there—with what I knew. Two fifteen-year-olds, Sarah and David, attend a prestigious arts school, the Citywide Academy for the Performing Arts (CAPA). Neither can drive, but both can have sex. They fall in love, though this is probably not the right word for what they experience. Their love is colossal. Monstrous. Steamy and feral. They are kids entrained by desire into appearing older and more savvy than they are.

  • The Alt-Write

    I’ve heard it argued—and I agree—that fiction that builds a universe whose rules depart from our own allows for the contemplation of ethical dilemmas that cannot be addressed in or by the world as we know it. This kind of fiction—what my toddler might call “same but different”—tends to disrupt our go-to feelings. In an alternate universe, you are moved to relitigate the basics because you cannot take anything for granted. The sun is black; the moon is pink; everything we know needs to be reevaluated—the facts of our lives and, by extension, the principles we hold dear. Similarly, fiction that

  • Home Evasion

    The writer Barry Hannah used to say that even though Bob Dylan can’t sing, he has the desperation of not being able to sing, which is better than being Glen Campbell, who can sing. Of course, there’s something patronizing here: Even if Dylan can’t sing, he can do a lot of other things well. And anyway, he can sing. Just not like your average crooner.

    All of which puts me in mind of Zachary Lazar’s new novel, I Pity the Poor Immigrant, which takes an unorthodox and almost scrappy approach to polemicizing about the lives of its four main characters. The book is named, I presume, after track 9

  • The Open Spies

    By now, chances are good you’ve read a thing or two about Dave Eggers’s The Circle. There’s been some controversy about plagiarism (as if there’s no way two writers could happen on the idea that social media is bad); there’s been Eggers’s admission that he did no research for the novel; there have been some tech-savvy people who think that’s obvious.

    The novel follows Mae Holland as she begins work at a tech company called the Circle. Throw Facebook, Google, and Apple together, garnish with a colonizing evil mantled in good intentions, and you’d have the Circle minus the advanced technology

  • A Plague on Words

    It should come as no surprise that Ben Marcus has written a novel about language toxicity—a language plague that kills any adult within range of words, speech, text, even emotive gesture. From the author of Notable American Women (2002), itself a venture in derangements of language, we should have expected no less. It should also come as no surprise that people who think about words all day, for whom locution is sexy and vital and, well, everything, have only to hear the words language toxicity to get all excited in the right places. To such people, I would say: You won’t be disappointed.

    But