Zach Baron

  • Hell Is Other People

    Speak, memory: “Nan’s pussy got damp but not soaking wet,” the musician Richard Hell recalls late in his new autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. “It was slick, like a squeaky rubber duck.” There are many shivery, illicit pleasures in this louche memoir of bygone bands and lost downtown haunts, including the author’s anatomically vivid, clinically surreal descriptions of past conquests. Hell writes of meeting—in a late-’60s poetry class taught by José Garcia Villa—a “sad, hysterical girl with red capillaries on her nose and cheekbones, and large breasts that looked like twin

  • Beyond Good and Evil

    By now, we know the George Saunders tool kit: his favored verbs, such as to “wonk.” His stylistic tics, such as “such as.” The arbitrarily capitalized phrases, copyrighted and trademarked: I CAN SPEAK! TM And we know the concerns those nouns and verbs betray: the encroachment of advertising into our emotional lives; the juxtaposition of the casual and the colloquial with the profound; the enthusiasm and earnest sincerity with which we lie to ourselves and others. In earlier collections like CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996) and Pastoralia (2000), Saunders indulged a fascination with melancholy

  • Caribou Island

    In his memoir A Mile Down (2005), David Vann revisits the horrors of a sea voyage—a journey from which he nearly didn’t return—while reflecting on the suicide of his father. Legend of a Suicide (2008), a suite of linked stories about a man and his son living in various uncivilized parts of Alaska, stops on Sukkwan, an isolated island that’s home to a slaughterhouse of a cabin and little else. Caribou Island, Vann’s third book and first novel, revisits the same dark territory, physical and otherwise, depicting a family haunted by the specter of self-annihilation and the siren call of the Alaskan

  • High Lonesome

    Though it was the Paris Review that published Stephen Dixon’s first short story, “The Chess House,” all the way back in 1963, the relationship between the author and the Review’s editor, George Plimpton, was always fraught. By then, Dixon, born in 1936, had already been a news reporter (he was the first to interview Khrushchev on American soil), an art school model, a bus driver, a bartender, and a schoolteacher. Mostly what he was was poor. Sometime after “The Chess House,” Plimpton stopped returning his messages. So Dixon got desperate and pretended to be the actor Howard Duff—a man famous

  • culture April 07, 2010

    Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky

    When David Lipsky meets David Foster Wallace, it’s 1996, Infinite Jest has just been released, and Wallace is the most famous literary writer in America. The author is also using a Barney the Purple Dinosaur towel as a bedroom curtain in his Illinois home. On the wall is a poster of Alanis Morissette. “If by some paradox,” he tells Lipsky, a novelist who’s there to profile him for Rolling Stone, “this whole fuss could get me some kind of even just like a five-minute cup of tea with her, that would be more than reward enough.” Later, Wallace will confess to being drawn to “squeaky orgasmic

  • culture October 09, 2009

    The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

    What to do with all the empty white space that drifts over the 733 pages and nearly 200 fictions of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis? Make origami, maybe. Like Don DeLillo, who drafted Underworld at the pace of one paragraph per sheet of paper, Lydia Davis is as much sculptor as writer.