Porochista Khakpour

  • A Day in the Life

    POROCHISTA KHAKPOUR: The Days of Afrekete (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26) is another outstanding book, following up on your 2006 collection Get Down and your 2015 novel Disgruntled. I just love how you’ve created this incredibly intimate and yet expansive portrait of the complicated friendship of two women at middle age, who have all sorts of identity issues to reckon with—race, sexuality, class, everything. The fact that it is inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Audre Lorde’s Zami also made it extra-satisfying to read. To what degree do you think it’s important

  • Coeur Values

    It’s the second week of March in Paris, and COVID-19 still hasn’t shut the city down. I am staying at the Hotel La Louisiane, the haunt of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Cy Twombly, and more—an oddball historic dive in the heart of the Sixth Arrondissement. I spend my days retracing the steps of literary and art icons and reading in cafés. I’ve been asked to write about The Heart, Marc Petitjean’s new book about Frida Kahlo’s life in Paris in 1939, and it seems to haunt me at every step. I walk over the Seine by the Louvre, which was just closed down, and

  • Surreal Talk

    The mid-twentieth-century Spanish Mexican artist Remedios Varo once wrote a fan letter to Gerald Gardner, known in the UK as the “father of modern witchcraft,” in which she let him know that in Mexico City he was not alone: “I, Mrs Carrington and some other people have devoted ourselves to seeking out facts and data still preserved in isolated areas where true witchcraft is still practiced.” They say witches often come in threes, and Varo and her best friends, the painter and writer Leonora Carrington and the photographer Kati Horna, formed their own coven in the city’s Colonia Roma neighborhood.

  • culture May 19, 2017

    How to Write Iranian-America, or The Last Essay

    Begin by writing about anything else. Go to the public library in your Los Angeles suburb and ask for all the great books people in New York City read, please. Wonder if the reference librarian knows a living writer and ask her what would a living writer read—and an American one, please. When she realizes you are still single digits and asks, Where are your parents, young lady? don’t answer and demand Shakespeare and take that big book home and cry because you can’t understand it. Tomorrow, go back to reading the dictionary a letter at a time and cry because you can’t learn the words. (Ask your

  • Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

    "IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES, it was the worst of times," I once tweeted years ago. An evergreen tweet, if ever there was one. All the old internet banalities have a certain pathos now; there were so many ways to say "all is lost" in 2016: "I can't," "no words,"sometimes just plain "2016."

    On November 9, I knew, not unlike on 9/11, that my life had changed for good. Though I found it impossible to write, I thought, perhaps, I could read. But I soon realized there was little I could take in: What would work and what wouldn't seemed rooted in the most obscure internal algorithms.

    Three books did

  • A Temperamental Education

    “IF YOU CANNOT GET RID OF the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance,” goes the only George Bernard Shaw quote I’ve ever bothered to fling around. Its best use may be for describing Alison C. Rose’s 2004 memoir, Better Than Sane: Tales from a Dangling Girl, where family—including, but not limited to, actual blood relatives—is a sort of game, and there is frankly little choice but to dance.

    The impossibly resilient, delightfully lunatic Rose was one of the less buzzed-about writers of William Shawn’s sunset years at the New Yorker—a bit by her own design, we come to realize in these