Mark Greif

  • Sons and Haters

    At the midpoint of D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love occurs one of the really extraordinary hidden scenes in English literature. Ursula and Gudrun are the young protagonists, figuring out their ambitions, their loves, and their futures. They are walking to a neighborhood water-party, with their father and mother in front of them, when suddenly they burst out in mockery. “‘Look at the young couple in front,’ said Gudrun calmly. . . . The two girls stood in the road and laughed till the tears ran down their faces, as they caught sight again of the shy, unworldly couple of their parents going on

  • The Fast and the Serious

    MARK GREIF: I think that Upstate is a beautiful book. Can you say a bit about how you came to write the novel?

    JAMES WOOD: I wanted to write about a family, and I wanted to write about the mystery of happiness. Look at any family—in particular, look at any group of siblings—and invariably you find an apparently random distribution of happiness and unhappiness. Why is she confident and buoyant, while he is depressive and unsuccessful in life?

    I wanted my novel to be about an older father—Alan is sixty-eight—with two grown-up daughters, who are very different from one another. The elder daughter,

  • Shop Talk

    Some of the big questions about US fiction since World War II are obvious. Why did the enormous novel of technical, scientific, or historical knowledge become the highest credential for male writers (Pynchon, Gaddis, DeLillo, Wallace)—and why have its authors been mostly elite and white? Did fiction truly split up after the ’60s on lines of identity, as many think, so that female authors had to decide whether they were creating “women’s writing,” and the minimalists of the ’80s (Carver, Jayne Anne Phillips) became representatives of marginalized whiteness?

    And there’s perhaps the most complex