• February 10, 2014

    The Absurd and Beautiful World of Figure Skating

    Figure skating is perhaps the least understood sport. The average layperson refers to every movement a skater completes as a “triple Axel” and forgets about the sport for four years at a time. Yet skating is, for some, an all-encompassing passion. A global sport, skating provides a lens through which one can explore some of the past century’s major historical phenomena (the AIDS crisis, the Cold War) and cultural trends (the cult of the sports commentator). The literature around figure skating is like the sport itself—entertaining, utterly human, flush with both absurdity and beauty. Here are

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  • Katherine Anne Porter
    January 24, 2014

    Great Works About Raising Kids with Mental Illness

    The greatest fear I harbor about having kids is that I will, as Philip Larkin puts it in “This Be the Verse,” fuck them up. I will fuck them up in some imperceptible way at first and there will be big consequences for it later. I fear that something will be “off” with my Hypothetical Child and I will be unaware or incapable of understanding it immediately, and that when I do finally become aware, I will somehow make matters worse by choosing the wrong treatment or not recognizing the gravity of whatever my child is going through. Perhaps, I fear, I will do too much and employ some intervention

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  • January 20, 2014

    Books for Twenty-First Century Travelers

    If on a winter’s night a traveler, in a taxi headed south from Bombay’s airport with a heavy suitcase full of hard drives, handmade electronics, and newly bought used books, were to consider his or her recent trip from New York to a village in Europe, to suburban London to Cork to Cairo (via Amman), the exhausting thing about it wouldn’t be the sheer physical distance covered in economy seats, or the days of caffeine and work and nights of drinking and conversations but something in the background—the incredible range of contexts one, or if lucky two or three of us together, passes through and

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  • Clarice Lispector
    January 13, 2014

    Flannery O’Connor, Faith, and Fiction

    In Flannery O’Connor’s recently published prayer journal, which she wrote in her early twenties, her ambitions as a fiction writer often get entangled with her aspirations to summon God into the work itself. “Start with the soul and perhaps the temporal gifts I want to exercise will have their chance. . . . God must be in all my work.” (See our review.) What makes her fiction great is not her intention to write directly about “Christian principles”; such an aim could have easily steered her to produce sermonizing fables or sentimental inspirational tales. Rather, her deeply original, dark, and

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  • László Krasznahorkai
    December 26, 2013

    Hungarian Novels

    As the crossroads of Europe, Hungary has borne all the turbulent drama the continent could offer. Over the last century, Hungarians have gone from being proud citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to seeing most of their lands lost to neighboring countries after World War I to witnessing the rise of Hungarian fascists in league with the Nazis, who were replaced by the victorious Russians after World War II. Years of unrest eventually sparked the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a popular uprising infamously crushed by Red Army tanks and followed by decades of life under police-state control.

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  • Tao Lin
    December 19, 2013

    The Best Novels of 2013

    Bookforum contributor Christian Lorentzen picks his favorite novels of the year, from Coetzee's "deep joke" to Pynchon's portrayal of the "deep Web."

    Christian Lorentzen is an editor at the London Review of Books.

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  • The Letter "e," from Shel Silverstein's "Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book."
    October 08, 2013

    Alphabet Books for Adults

    Most books about the alphabet are geared toward kids; they’re for pre- and early readers who are just beginning to learn about letters, the basic building blocks of language. But the last century has seen the publication of a number of alphabet-related books that appeal to adults too. Some of these books were written with an adult audience in mind, while others transcend their intended youthful audience through their innovative form and content. All of the books on this list contain adult pleasures; they use the alphabetic sequence as a means to reflect on topics as varied as globalization,

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  • Roland Barthes and his mother.
    October 01, 2013

    Sons and Mothers

    Throughout the history of literature, writers have catalogued the myriad ways a man can love a woman. One complex and emotionally fraught part of this genre is dedicated to the mother-son relationship. Once the spell of childhood is broken, first loves, first passions, and other trials and tribulations chip away at what was once a special bond between a boy and his mother. Male writers have often attended to the fragile nature of the relationships with their mothers in memoir or semi-autobiographical fiction. The five works included here attempt to reconcile the child-son with the adult-son,

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  • September 10, 2013

    Layers in Fiction

    When multiple narrative layers are incorporated into a work of fiction, they can have a disorienting effect. Whether they take the form of a shift in perspective, the introduction of interviews, or something else, they can deeply affect the way we perceive a novel, and undermine—or do away with entirely—our trust in the story’s narrator. These concerns surface in the works below.

    Jonathan Aprea is a writer and photographer based in New York.

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  • July 24, 2013

    The Unfinished Novel

    The novel, like all art, reaches for immortality, but the unfinished novel is bound up with mortality and the limits of time. In my view, that makes it even more beautiful than a finished novel. We're left to imagine the completion that is forever suspended. How was the writer ever going to tie up such a complicated plot? What was he or she going to do with all those characters and their noisy, difficult yearnings? And what was it all supposed to mean? As we circle these questions, the author becomes paradoxically more and more present to us in the work left behind. We feel his or her humanity

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  • July 15, 2013

    Books about Vancouver

    Though it’s often overlooked as one of the great West Coast cities, Vancouver, BC synthesizes many of the most appealing qualities of its American counterparts. The Canadian outpost combines San Francisco's walkability, Portland's livability, Seattle's seaside surroundings, and Los Angeles' slickness, all in a carefully designed urban setting. The city’s current state is the result of development that has taken place over the past several decades. Yet Vancouver’s skyscrapers, gleaming condominium towers and urban center can make it difficult for the uninitiated visitor to see everything else

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  • Donald Richie in Tokyo's entertainment district of Asakusa, 1954. | Donald Richie/Stephen Mansfield.
    April 04, 2013

    Western Ex-Pats in Post-War Japan

    The 1950s through the 80s saw Japan go from post-war disrepair to world-frightening powerhouse, adapting and even improving all manner of Western inventions from cars and consumer electronics to jeans and rock music. While America and Britain observed these developments from afar, a number of expatriate writers registered more thoughtful assessments of the rapidly changing situation on the ground. These Westerners, many of whom first came to Japan during the Second World War, brought outside perspectives to this endlessly fascinating era of unprecedented—and unsurpassed—Japanese development

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