• 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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  • Lars Horn. Photo: Richard Allen
    June 08, 2022

    Bodies of Water

    As a writer who is the daughter of a fisheries biologist, I have found a dearth of books that make “the sciences” sensorial, not simply factual. I have longed for essays that feel like swimming, where language is aquatic, texts saturated with the sonics of being underwater. When I read Lars Horn’s Voice of the Fish, I found it did just that by submerging the reader in the mythological layers of the marine. Horn begins by describing the Book-Fish, a manuscript that was found dissolving within the belly of a cod at a market in Cambridge in 1626. This poetic and visceral anecdote sets the stage

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  • Nell Zink. Photo: Francesca Torricelli
    June 02, 2022

    Stranger Than Paradise

    Nell Zink lives in Brandenburg, Germany, but writes mostly about Americans and their countercultures and excesses. Her novels tend to be funny, immensely contemporary, and a little chaotic—in their careening prose style as well as in their joyfully unwieldy premises. She’s written about a group of anarchist squatters navigating real estate and movement strategy in Jersey City (Nicotine); a white lesbian who, having gone on the lam, successfully passes as Black in the woods of Tidewater, Virginia, where Zink grew up (Mislaid); and, most recently, a Lower East Side post-punk couple whose daughter

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  • Roger Federer playing at the 116th French Open, Stade Roland Garros, Paris, 2012. Kate Carine/Flickr

    In the Loop

    ASAD RAZA: Your new book, The Last Days of Roger Federer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28), is in part a meditation on the tennis great and his retirement. It’s also about the late careers of other athletes, writers, artists, and musicians—Bob Dylan, Eve Babitz, Beethoven, to name a few. In this sense, you are writing about time, and this is reflected in the book’s unique formal structure. Can you tell me how that came about?

    GEOFF DYER: With great pleasure! The book isn’t one of these essay hampers, which I’ve published, where you sort of dump into a big bucket the stuff you’ve written for

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  • Bernardine Evaristo. Photo: Jennie Scott
    May 26, 2022

    “I Was Never Complacent”

    Novelist Bernardine Evaristo is the consummate traveler, having led a peripatetic life since her teens. This adventurousness extends to her creative work, much of which starts off in one genre, only to end up in another. The Emperor’s Babe, which tells of the life and times of Zuleika, a young Sudanese woman who is “a nobody wanting to be somebody,” was conceived as a series of poems, but was eventually published as a verse novel incorporating unrhymed couplets. Blonde Roots has roots in a short story commissioned by The Guardian. Girl, Woman, Other, a protean, polyphonic novel that won the

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  • May 13, 2022

    Mountain Song

    “Often it seems that the more action there is, the less happens,” wrote Ursula K. Le Guin, explaining her frequent boredom with adventure stories. Kim Stanley Robinson is, among many things, a great spinner of adventures—but whether he’s depicting Earth’s colonization of Mars or geopolitical intrigues in Antarctica, the fast pace of events in his novels never crowds out their rich inner worlds.

    These inner depths are usually set against and within the drama of landscapes both seductive and deserving of respect. So it’s no surprise that The High Sierra: A Love Story, his first nonfiction book

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  • April 08, 2022

    Marquee Moon

    Emily St. John Mandel is known for novels that hopscotch through time and transform and transcend genre. She has tackled everything from devastating pandemics (written before our own), Madoffesque Ponzi schemes, theater troupes, addiction, and the global shipping industry. Her 2014 best-seller, Station Eleven, was adapted into a critically acclaimed miniseries that premiered on HBO in late 2021.  

    Mandel’s sixth novel, Sea of Tranquility, is her most ambitious to date, spanning five hundred years, from early-twentieth-century Canada to a moon colony in 2401, the eras knitted together by her

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  • Caren Beilin. Photo: Aaron Shulman
    April 05, 2022

    Caren Beilin discusses ritual, revenge, and toying with trauma in a new novel

    Caren Beilin’s prose trusts us to invest in the logic, sound, and feeling at hand. I come for the sentences, and I stay for the politics. Her prior work in fiction and nonfiction challenges medical narratives; gives voice to the chronically ill; presents surreal, continuous menstruation alongside historical anecdote; and resists gendered positions of listening and caretaking. I have the sense as I read Beilin that we are making discoveries at the same time, reader and writer together, that the sentences propel realizations as opposed to the other way around.

    In Beilin’s new novel, Revenge of

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  • Warren Ellis. Photo: Faber
    March 31, 2022

    Musician-author Warren Ellis discusses his book Nina Simone’s Gum

    During the pandemic, Warren Ellis wrote Nina Simone’s Gum in his Paris atelier. As he told me, “It’s where I’ve pretty much done everything for the last ten years. It’s an old barn, converted into a studio.” The book centers on a piece of gum Ellis pulls off the piano Nina Simone used at a concert in 1999, but it ranges out through his history of learning to play violin and accordion, and then later joining Dirty Three and meeting Nick Cave. It’s a quick, rich book. We spoke by Zoom in January.

    SASHA FRERE-JONES: So this all begins when Nick Cave booked Nina Simone to play his version of the

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  • Mona Chollet. Photo: © Mathieu Zazzo.
    March 24, 2022

    A conversation with Mona Chollet about witches and feminism

    It is a misconception that witch hunts only occurred during the Middle Ages—many took place during the alleged lucidity of the Renaissance. Men exploited the climate of suspicion to dispose of women they didn’t want around. Whole family lines were wiped out. Nonconforming women were denounced, humiliated, and killed. Centuries later, this kind of persecution continues in insidious ways, underpinned by relentless misogyny and victim blaming. The same female figures are still considered dangerous: the single woman, the childless woman, the aging woman—all dismissed with fear, pity, or horror.

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  • Ari Brostoff. Photo: Amelia Golden
    March 15, 2022

    Ari Brostoff’s debut essay collection studies the ruptures of our very recent past

    Ari Brostoff’s debut collection of essays, Missing Time, shows one of our very best cultural critics at work. Written between 2016 and 2021, these five essays range from analyses of Bernie Sanders, The X-Files, Sigmund Freud, conspiracy theories, Jewish diaspora, Vivian Gornick, and falling in and out of (and back in) love with communism. What unites them is the curiously roving perspective of Brostoff, whose wisdom lies in understanding how popular culture and ephemera might be as ripe for historizing as social movements and schools of thought. A piercing investigation of the cultural detritus

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