LARB interview with Helen DeWitt

The Los Angeles Review of Books also published my interview with Helen DeWitt (alongside my review and Scott Esposito’s review of Lightning Rods). My favorite answer that Helen gave? I read James Wood’s review of White Teeth, in which he introduced the term “hysterical realism,” a long while back: He complained of novels obsessed with […]

Hurricane Helen (A Review of “Lightning Rods” for the “Los Angeles Review of Books”)

In their infinite wisdom, the Los Angeles Review of Books published my review of Helen DeWitt’s very funny second novel, Lightning Rods. Helen DeWitt’s first novel, The Last Samurai, was published in 2000 to almost universally rapturous praise. It sold a hundred thousand copies in English. If literary publishing were a rational enterprise, even along […]

Review of a Character: Sarah Palin in Andrew Foster Altschul’s “Deus Ex Machina” (Published in “The Believer”)

The Believer published my review of Andrew Altschul’s Deus Ex Machina — or rather the character of Sarah Palin as she is depicted in that novel — in September. Andrew Altschul’s second novel, Deus Ex Machina, tells the story of The Deserted, a reality-television program limping into its thirteenth season with low ratings and a […]

To Norway! On Regionalism and the Reading Class

(A conversation with Andrew Goldstone originally published on Arcade under the user name “Goldstone and Konstantinou.”) We’ve both been very interested in the sociology of literature, and we’ve both talked about literary-sociological issues on Arcade before; but there’s nothing like coming to grips with a full-blown literary-sociological study. Herewith, then, our discussion of a recent […]

The Contemporary Novel

(Introduction to “The Contemporary Novel” colloquy at Arcade.) Any colloquy on the contemporary novel faces two immediate challenges. We must deal first with our adjective. What do we mean by "contemporary"? The primary sense of the word, according to the trusty OED, is "[b]elonging to the same time, age, or period; living, existing, or occurring […]

How to Squeeze the Humanities 101: The Case of Mark Bauerlein

(Crossposted at Arcade.) Mark Bauerlein–author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30) and Literary Theory: An Autopsy–recently released a widely discussed study called "Literary Research: Cost and Impacts" for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. This short study concludes that […]

Alan Jacobs and the Rise of the Reading Class

(Crossposted at Arcade.) In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education called "Why We Can’t Teach Students to Love Reading," Alan Jacobs argues that "’deep attention’ reading has always been and will always be a minority pursuit." The inevitable minority status of deep reading "has been obscured in the past half-century, especially in […]

William S. Burroughs’ Wild Ride with Scientology

Over at io9 you can read a short article I wrote on William S. Burroughs’ relationship to Scientology. In 1959, the same year Olympia Press published his most famous novel Naked Lunch, the writer William S. Burroughs visited the restaurant of his friend and collaborator, Brion Gysin, in Tangiers. There, Burroughs met John and Mary […]

Biological Universals as Authenticity, or, What’s the Matter with Steven Pinker?

(Crossposted at Arcade.) In a fascinating parable, “A Story In Two Parts, With An Ending Yet To Be Written,” posted on the National Humanities Center’s On the Human Web site, Paula Moya tells the tale of a researcher named Kitayama who travels from the land of Interdependence to the land of Independence, conducts research into […]