Lisa Locascio

  • culture June 08, 2015

    The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes

    Like Jean Rhys, Mary-Beth Hughes gives her reader only the barest of warnings before dropping them headlong into frenzy. Her new, 1970s-set novel presents a seductively well-dressed world, and most of the inhabitants are falling apart.

    Period sex finally gets its due as dramatic device in Mary-Beth Hughes’s emotionally raw but ultimately elegant novel The Loved Ones. The scene in question opens, as all do in this novel, in medias res, with unhinged rake Nick Devlin in a hotel room with “a pretty girl who seems to have bled all over the bedding.” By the time this passage arrives, near the middle of the book, the dissembling of the Devlin family has already been established: perpetually moving between the East Coast of the United States and England, each member copes with repressed pain through forms of self-destruction. But

  • culture May 26, 2015

    The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

    From the grand ’Nam narratives of ’70s cinema to the works of creative-writing-syllabus mainstays like Tim O’Brien and Robert Olen Butler, representations of Vietnam and the war we staged there are some of our most indelible and critically renowned cultural products. The subgenre’s Frankenstein face—equal parts sentimental fetish, idealistic fantasy, and violent reportage, a mixture as dissonant and complex as the War itself—crystallizes in Butler’s story “Mid-Autumn,” from the 1992 collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, in which a Vietnamese GI bride offers a blend of schmaltz,

  • culture October 29, 2014

    Sister Golden Hair by Darcey Steinke

    Over the course of five novels, Darcey Steinke has sought to map and elevate the soul of her protagonists, usually female seekers overlooked by their thick-skinned, even-keeled peers. Part detective, part medium, part anthropologist, the Steinke heroine is voracious for pleasure—but too wise to look away from ugliness.

    In 1999, I spent my eighth-grade spring break with my mother, visiting my aunt in Rockville, Maryland. In a never-repeated experiment, my father and younger sister went on a separate vacation to Disney World. While they rode the Tower of Terror, we spent our days on the clean, empty Metro as my mom, who had lived on O Street during her first marriage in the 1970s, showed me around the city. One afternoon we went to the Tower Records in Foggy Bottom, where I found Jesus Saves by Darcey Steinke. Its yellow cover bore a black line drawing of a bikinied woman—a girl, really—in a Christlike pose,