The Mystery of Big Books

(Crossposted from Arcade.) “Must literary studies confine itself to the margins of the publishing field?” asks Andrew Goldstone in the first of what promises to be an important series of blog posts on John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century. Noting that Thompsons’s amazing account of the publishing field omits [...]

Review of Ben Marcus’s “The Flame Alphabet”

I've written yet another LARB book review, this time on Ben Marcus's fascinating The Flame Alphabet. In his 1967 essay “The Death of the Author,” Roland Barthes announced the revolutionary overthrow of the writer by the reader. Building on the idea that “it is language which speaks, not the author,” Barthes argued that a ceaseless [...]

Review of “MetaMaus” at LARB

My review of Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus is now available at LARB. A taste: In the 1991 second volume of his classic graphic novel Maus, published five years after the first, Art Spiegelman briefly — and dramatically — drops the conceit for which his book is so famous. For seven pages, instead of depicting himself as [...]

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 [...]