Michelle Orange

  • That Obscure Object of Desire

    IN HER PROLOGUE FOR THREE WOMEN, journalist Lisa Taddeo describes the conversion that gave what she had conceived of as “a book about human desire” its ultimate, female shape. A contributor to Esquire and New York magazine, Taddeo envisioned her nonfiction debut in the line of Thy Neighbor’s Wife (1980), Gay Talese’s dispatch from the sexual revolution’s American front. True to that model, she first looked to men for the essential, scalable contours of modern sexual life. But the men she met on her scouting missions bored Taddeo, their accounts blurring into one basic tale of infatuation,

  • L’Avventura

    Per publishing custom, the first pages of In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri’s fifth book and first essay collection, present a selection of critical praise for her previous work. The nature of this praise, all of it pertaining to Lahiri’s 2013 novel The Lowland, is both predictable and particular, with an emphasis on the author’s reputation as “an elegant stylist.” The blurbs celebrate Lahiri’s “legendarily smooth . . . prose style,” her “brilliant language,” and her ability to place “the perfect words in the perfect order.” Beyond the usual hosannas, what emerges is the sense of an author defined

  • Spouse of the Holy

    The last three of Marilynne Robinson’s four novelsthe Pulitzer-winning Gilead, Home, and now Lila—apply a canonical sheen to a small Iowa town, a world of dying fathers, prodigal and miracle sons, fallen women, and homemade chicken and dumplings. In each book the same events—often the same conversations—are witnessed and recalled from various, luminously drawn perspectives, layering into a kind of applied sanctity the course of more or less ordinary life.

    An essentially religious writer, Robinson stands quite alone in this “unreligious age,” as Iris Murdoch called it, in which we turn to art

  • Love’s Labor’s Found

    Bad enough that a new Norman Rush book appears but once a decade; to be a big tease about it seems cruel. As far back as 2005, Rush was describing his new novel, Subtle Bodies, as a “screwball tragedy,” a book concerned with “friendship, male friendship in particular.” The tease was on, and over the next seven years assumed tantric proportions: It would be Rush’s first book set in the United States and not Africa, and much shorter than his previous novels—the five-hundred-page Mating (1991), and the seven-hundred-page Mortals (2003)—with the action taking place on the eve of the 2003 Iraq

  • Reading the City

    OF THE MANY THINGS one might expect of the restaurant billed as London’s oldest, decent food ranks fairly low. Red velvet banquettes and red leather chairs, walls crowded with framed portraits and equestrian art, ghostly herds of desiccated antlers, dried floral arrangements and leaf-printed red-and-gold carpet—these are all reasonable expectations. A certain segment of the population might also turn up at Rules (est. 1798), in London’s Covent Garden, with the more desperate ambitions of the literary tourist. Rules was a favorite of Graham Greene’s, and he set two pivotal scenes in The End of