paper trail

Morton Høi Jensen on literary biography; Sarah Chihaya on envy and Elaine Hsieh Chou’s “Disorientation”

Elaine Hsieh Chou. Photo: © Cindy Trinh

For Liberties, Morton Høi Jensen reflects on what we expect from biographies, the “biographical fallacy,” and works of fiction that lean on biographical information. “All writers lead double lives: one on the page, one off,” Jensen writes. “And no account or portrait of a writer’s life will resolve this fissure. There will always be a scandalizing disproportion between the human messiness of a writer’s life and the size, the scope, and the opacity of their fictional work.”

For the New York Times, Marc Tracy outlines how liberal cultural arbiters are responsible for the popularity of J. D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy and current Republican nominee for the Ohio Senate. In the Feb/Mar 2018 issue of Bookforum, read Frank Guan on Elizabeth Catte’s What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, which “situat[es] Vance within a long tradition of those eager to blame Appalachia’s woes on anyone but the rich.”

Sarah Chihaya reviews Elaine Hsieh Chou’s Disorientation for the New York Review of Books. Chihaya takes stock of the novel’s dichotomies—“jealousy and envy, desire and hatred, the seemingly passive type of Asian woman and the seemingly aggressive one”—and notes that reading it “had the curious side effect of making me uncomfortably aware of my own envy—of Elaine Hsieh Chou, for writing a delightful Asian American campus novel.”

At the Yale Review, Spencer Lee-Lenfield writes about the Korean novelist Sang Young Park, “who rejects with great élan the role of Agonized Gay Writer.” 

Priya Satia considers Jeff Nussbaum’s book Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches That Would Have Rewritten History for the New Republic: “Crucially, they often went undelivered in the face of the more irresistible historical power of the collective, forged through everyday exchanges—which may be the speech that matters most.” 

In the latest installment of her advice column at The Baffler, Marlowe Granados (author of Happy Hour), is “pleased to report that it is perfectly fine to complain about misogyny and to not let anyone make you feel bad about it.”