Gideon Lewis-Kraus

  • Oh, the Humanities

    In a 2005 essay for the New York Times Magazine, the critic A. O. Scott considered two recent and rather quixotic decisions, made in parallel by rival camps of young writers, to devise print magazines. One was The Believer, inaugurated in 2003 by Dave Eggers’s independent San Francisco publishing house McSweeney’s, and the other was n+1. Where The Believer gave itself over to historical whimsy, n+1 self-consciously styled itself the heir, in its mandarin ambition, to the little politics-and-culture magazines of midcentury. Its founders’ model was the later Partisan Review, a magazine they

  • Negative Capability

    In her 2008 essay “Two Paths for the Novel,” Zadie Smith devised an antagonism between Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, as an example of pious literary realism, and Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, a whorl of reflux lodged in that tradition’s throat. As Smith saw it, Netherland indulged in the fantasies of the coherent self, with his or her explicable arcs toward epiphany. Remainder—in which a nameless narrator, newly wealthy, stages increasingly elaborate reenactments of made-up scenes from his past—signed up with an alternative literary tradition, with an altogether different way to view the self: not

  • Viewer Discretion

    BOTH FLESH AND NOT is David Foster Wallace at his best and his worst, but the thing about Wallace’s best was that it usually contained his worst: He was his most consequentially gracious when his tenderness and generosity were only barely outpacing his capacity to be a total dickhead. It’s appropriate, then, that this final nonfiction collection should include the last great essays he wrote alongside at least a few pieces he declined to include in not only one collection but two, first in 1997’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and again in 2005’s Consider the Lobster. These were, as

  • culture August 17, 2011

    Epilogue to a Moment

    Some books purport to be about a thing (Al Qaeda, or salt) and then are actually about that thing (Al Qaeda, or salt); other books purport to be about one thing (horses, or photography, or cocaine) and are rather about a different thing (tradition, or decency, or experiment). The best books purport to be about one thing and are rather about all other things, about tradition and decency and experiment. The Anatomy of a Moment, by the Spanish novelist Javier Cercas, falls into this last category. It purports to be about one thing—a miscarried coup d’etat, or golpe de estado, staged as a hostage-taking

  • Death Trips

    Baron Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg and Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett were men of the odd fringes of softening empires; each would, in his own way, champion a fantasized primitivism as the antidote to a civilization in decay. David Grann’s The Lost City of Z describes Fawcett’s obsession with the fabled Amazonian city, a spiritual El Dorado and “the cradle of all civilizations.” In 1925, Fawcett set out, on foot and with only his son and a sidekick, into the jungle in search of Z. At the time, he was probably the most famous anthropologist-explorer since Livingstone; he did

  • Honorable Menschen

    Admirers of the great Howard Jacobson have made a parlor game of accounting for why he's not been recognized as one of the most absorbing and intelligent Anglophone novelists. It beggars the imagination to think that the man who wrote The Mighty Walzer (1999) has won no major accolade in award-mad Britain and has barely appeared in print in the States. So, some possibilities: He's been written off as a mere comic novelist, and a smut-peddling comedian at that; he's impolitely Jewish, his sentences lousy with Yiddish; and he laments the state of British culture in a weekly Independent column.

  • Ark Angels

    Perhaps the chief draw of any postapocalyptic spectacle is the vast opportunity for plunder; Chris Adrian's medical millenarianism, however, envisions a band of survivors rather indisposed to such distraction. The Children's Hospital imagines a genre-exploding eschaton where the chief residual vice is less indulgence than blinkered intensity: Its legatees are doctors, and come hell or high water—or, in this case, both—nothing will delay their rounds. Adrian's epic opens with a flood that drowns the planet under seven miles of water, and the only postdiluvial buoy is a floating pediatric hospital