Lorraine Adams

  • Tunnel Vision

    Ever since Wordsworth wrote “The Idiot Boy,” a long poem about Betty Foy and her mentally handicapped son, the developmentally disabled have played the part of romantic hero in literature—most powerfully Faulkner’s Benjy Compson in The Sound and the Fury.

    Into this tradition steps Jayne Anne Phillips, who burst onto the literary scene as a precocious twenty-six-year-old in 1979 with Black Tickets, a collection of mildly shocking stories about the sexually deranged, criminally depraved, and daringly marginalized in her native West Virginia and other parts of the South. In Lark and Termite, her

  • War of Wordsmiths

    The war correspondent is all too often a strutting animal. Since his appearance in the mid-nineteenth century as a British gentleman in the Crimean War, he has typically gotten the story wrong, collected songs of praise for doing so, and been forced, by some diligent, ego-free historian, to live out his days permanently corrected.

    Every so often, a mutation occurs. An Ernest Hemingway, a John Hersey, a news­paperman first, becomes a great writer. Martha Gellhorn transcends the breed. Michael Herr goes to Vietnam and pens Dispatches. But few of even these evolve into what Nabokov called “an


    The fictional universe of Zakes Mda is no place for the cold rationalist. In six novels, the fifty-eight-yearold writer whom the New York Times recently hailed as “one of the most prominent black novelists in South African history” has demonstrated an abiding attachment to the seemingly ludicrous. In fact, his love of the improbable is so pervasive that some readers have mistaken it for an embrace of superstition. Novelist Norman Rush, perhaps his fiercest critic, castigated him in the New York Review of Books for leaving such realities as AIDS unaddressed, saying that The Heart of Redness (