Jane Ciabattari

  • culture August 25, 2011

    Back From the Dead: The State of Book Reviewing

    Five years ago, when Twitter was just another start-up and the iPad was a gleam in Steve Jobs’s eye, the state of print book reviews in this country was undergoing a spectacular and noisy collapse. Newspapers that were failing financially killed off their stand-alone print book sections, or folded them into the entertainment, ideas, or culture sections. They fired staff book editors and critics and cut freelance budgets. Hundreds of newspapers shut down altogether. Many magazines stopped covering books, and the literary quarterlies, for decades the champions of poetry and literary fiction

  • Say Her Name

    In 2004, Francisco Goldman fell in love with Aura Estrada, a writer and graduate student from Mexico City who was working on a Ph.D. at Columbia University. At the time, he was writing a dark, violent book, The Art of Political Murder, a nonfiction account of the assassination of Catholic bishop Juan José Gerardi Conedera by the Guatemalan military and of the atrocities perpetrated against the country’s Mayan population. But the younger Aura brought joy into his life. The two married in 2005. In 2007, only months after he finished his book, Aura died in a bodysurfing accident in Mazunte, on

  • syllabi September 23, 2009

    Writing the West

    The sparsely populated mile-high plains, bowl-shaped valleys, and jagged mountain ranges of Wyoming, Montana, and other western states inspire a particular literary shape and substance. A robust and increasingly influential literature of the West, with its own set of icons—Bret Harte, Walter van Tilburg Clark, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner—has evolved over the past century and a half.

    Owen Wister’s The Virginian set the mold for the western cowboy hero (although Wister called his book a “colonial romance,” noting that “Wyoming between 1874 and 1890 was a colony as wild as was Virginia one

  • Mexican Spitfire

    Kate Christensen has been quietly carving a niche for herself as a chronicler of eccentric characters on the periphery of New York’s cultural vortex. Last year’s pen/Faulkner award for her fourth novel, The Great Man, raised her profile. The book’s conceit—two biographers competing for the attention of the mistress, the wife, and the sister, all satellites to a randy and recently deceased figurative painter—was knowing, the tone fang sharp. The women were over the age of seventy but not without allure (the former mistress hopes the first biographer notices that “her hips and waist were still