Culture

By Blood by Ellen Ullman

By Blood: A Novel BY Ullman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hardcover, 384 pages. $27.

A vast gulf separates us from the incidents described in Ellen Ullman’s new novel By Blood: a gulf the approximate size and shape of the Internet. The pieces of technology that matter in By Blood’s San Francisco-circa-1974 feel positively antediluvian: the sound machine that masks the therapy sessions taking place in the office next door to our narrator (a disgraced professor facing sexual misconduct charges) but that’s periodically turned off at the request of one patient, on whose sessions the narrator compulsively eavesdrops; the reel-to-reel tape recorder the patient takes with her to Israel late in the novel to record conversations with her newly discovered birth mother.