• Frantz Fanon. Everett Collection.

    Rebel’s Rebel

    Adam Shatz and I met recently to speak about his latest book, The Rebel’s Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $32). Fanon was a psychiatrist and anti-colonial theorist. Born in Martinique in 1925, he trained as a psychiatrist in France before he became the director of a psychiatric hospital in Blida, Algeria. There, he began to work with the National Liberation Front (FLN) and later went into exile in Tunisia. Fanon died at the age of thirty-six in Bethesda, Maryland, after receiving delayed treatment for leukemia at the National Institutes of Health—arranged

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  • Blood and Guts in Art School

    NIKKI SHANER-BRADFORD: Your new book Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35) riffs on a term many people first heard in Jenny Offill’s 2014 novel, Dept. of Speculation. Offill’s narrator says, “My plan was to never get married. I was going to be an art monster instead. Women almost never become art monsters because art monsters only concern themselves with art, never with mundane things.” What did you think of Offill’s term, and what does it mean in your book? 

    LAUREN ELKIN: Offill’s “art monster” was quickly taken up in the debate over whether one could

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  • Emma Grove
    December 01, 2022

    Alter Offerings

    Emma Grove opens her graphic memoir, The Third Person, with a therapy session already underway. We don’t know anything about the therapist’s intentions or the patient’s reliability or even her hold on reality, but something definitely seems off. The rest of the doorstopper memoir about Grove’s life as a trans woman with dissociative identity disorder (complete with “alters,” or distinct personalities) unfolds similarly—as a transfixing psychological puzzle. Grove’s candor adds to the intrigue. She states up front that she doesn’t embellish her recollections: “As much of this as possible has

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  • George Saunders, 2018. Photo: Zach Krahmer.

    A Case for the Weird Voice

    ANGELO HERNANDEZ-SIAS: A funny story about the title story of Liberation Day (Random House, $28) is that you woke up one night from a dream and wrote something on your notepad, thinking it was the most brilliant idea. And when you woke up, you found it said: “Custer in the Bardo.”

    GEORGE SAUNDERS: In the dream state, it was so perfect, it seemed like a big advance over Lincoln in the Bardo. Luckily, in the light of day, I thought better of it. I had been wanting to write about Custer for a long time, but after that dream and the horror of reading that title in the morning, I just gave up on

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  • October 20, 2022

    Care for All

    For low-vision viewers, bright colors, which reflect light, are easiest to see. The cover of Beatrice Adler-Bolton and Artie Vierkant’s new book Health Communism is thus bright blue––what Adler-Bolton calls “true blue,” and what the Pantone color guide calls #2736 C. The coauthors’ names aren’t on the cover. Instead, they’re listed inside, on one of the opening pages. 

    Adler-Bolton and Vierkant are perhaps best known as two of the hosts of Death Panel, a health justice podcast which takes its name from Sarah Palin’s 2009 claim that federal universal health-care would lead to state-sanctioned

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  • October 04, 2022

    Taking the Measure of David Smith

    Michael Brenson’s David Smith: The Art and Life of a Transformational Sculptor, the first biography of the celebrated twentieth century artist, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux this week. Brenson contributed the lead essay to David Smith Sculpture: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1932–1965, published last year by The Estate of David Smith and Yale University Press. Christopher Lyon, its editor and a contributing essayist, spoke with Brenson recently about his Smith biography. Brenson, the artistic director of the Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation, was an art critic for the New York Times

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  • Rachel Aviv. Photo © Rose Lichter-Marck
    September 22, 2022

    Reports from the Interior

    When she was six, Rachel Aviv was hospitalized for not eating. Doctors concluded that she had anorexia, but now, decades later, in her new book, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us, Aviv is questioning that diagnosis—and many others. Her debut book concerns itself with people who occupy the “psychic hinterlands, the outer edges of human experience, where language tends to fail.” Strangers to Ourselves is that rare work that both elevates and remakes the form of writing about medical ethics. Each chapter is informed by Aviv’s meticulous reporting and draws from

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  • James Greer, Vanessa Salomon. Photo: Thomas Early
    September 08, 2022

    Welcome to the Pun House

    “It feels like we’re living in hell,” James Greer tells me. A heavy sentiment, to be sure, especially when dropped into an otherwise sunny afternoon, on the back patio of a combination coffee shop/surf shop in New York’s Lower East Side. But Greer has spent a lot of time lately delving into climate-change research—for a film project—so the doomsday vibe is understandable. And despite the looming environmental apocalypse, he’s still got faith in the power of words to inspire and provoke.

    Everyone’s a multi-hyphenate these days, but Greer actually earns the distinction: novelist (this is his

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  • Namwali Serpell, 2022. Jordan Kines.

    Mourning Routine

    What does it do to us to lose someone? What does it do to a family? Can we separate our private devastation from the broader world that created the conditions under which we suffer loss? 

    These are the questions that haunt Namwali Serpell’s The Furrows (Hogarth, $27). While her previous novel, The Old Drift, is a sprawling epic that manages to make the colonization of the place now known as Zambia something we feel, The Furrows is a more intimate book, yet the questions at its core are no less troubling and demanding. The story at first appears to be straightforward: it’s about a big sister

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  • August 10, 2022

    A Season in Hell

    So far this year, seven people have died while in custody at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex. During ever more regular heat waves, reports spread of incarcerated people gasping for breath under door cracks and sharing one jug of water between twelve men. Violence, guard brutality, prisoner self-harm, and scant medical care are standard. Rikers, in short, is a humanitarian crisis. Five years ago, an official closure plan aiming to shutter Rikers by 2027 was introduced. While abolitionists have rightly called for No New Jails to replace the moribund institution, the plan involves its

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  • June 22, 2022

    Injustice System

    On June 2, 1892, in the ostensibly progressive railroad town of Port Jervis, New York, a white mob lynched Robert Lewis, a Black teamster who was accused of assaulting a white woman. The murder of Lewis is the subject of historian Philip Dray’s absorbing new book, A Lynching at Port Jervis: Race and Reckoning in the Gilded Age. A jury soon acquitted all of the accused, forcing the local coroner to render the murder committed by “persons unknown,” the “ubiquitous last word of coroner’s findings throughout the South, now invoked here in Port Jervis,” as Dray writes.

    That coroner’s haunting phrase

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  • Kai Bosworth. Photo: Annabelle Marcovici.
    June 16, 2022

    What the People Want

    In his new book, Pipeline Populism: Grassroots Environmentalism in the Twenty-First Century, scholar Kai Bosworth investigates the rise of environmental populism alongside the Indigenous-led protests of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. In showing how anti-pipeline struggles grew to include broader coalitions of protesters, Bosworth digs into the motivations of the rural white settlers involved in these struggles, discussing different notions of property, the desire for autonomy, and ties to place and community. But he warns that mass participation itself should not eclipse decolonization

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