Search View Archive


In Conversation


Binnie Kirshenbaum has produced a diverse body of fiction over two decades. Difficult to classify, her work seems impatient with convention, eager to get to the point.

MARK MILLHONE with Anne Pelletier

Your newborn son lies fighting for his life, the sickest baby in the NICU at NYU Medical Center. Your mother dies. Your father is diagnosed with prostate cancer. Your older son is seriously mauled by the family dog. Your marriage begins to unravel. Your tight financial situation weighs heavily on your mind. All of this happens in one horrific year.

NONFICTION: Community Centering

Rebecca Solnit agrees with one aspect of commonplace thinking about disasters: once a hurricane’s winds subside, an earthquake’s upheavals abate, or an explosion’s concussive force dissipates, the trouble is far from over. But the premise of Solnit’s forceful new book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, is that nearly everything else we are told about the aftermath of such events is wrong.

ART: The Agonist and the Ecstasy

“I suffer from a frightful disease of the mind,” declared Antonin Artaud in 1923, referring in the same letter to his poems as “the shreds that I have managed to snatch from complete nothingness.” Twenty-five years later, having endured psychological breakdowns, incarceration, and electroshock treatments, Artaud wrote a brief poetic statement intended to introduce a selection from the notebooks he had composed following his release from the Rodez asylum in 1946.

FICTION: Waiting for Bolongo

In his first novel, Part of the World (2007), Robert Lopez performed a kind of textual surgery, using language like a scalpel to cut new, trenchant incisions into narrative territory originally carved out by writers such as Alain Robbe-Grillet and Samuel Beckett.

POETRY: After the Road

Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Clark Coolidge, Michael Gizzi, and I lived within 30 miles of each other, in that UFO zone connecting western Massachusetts and mid-Hudson Valley New York, we often got together. When we weren’t scouring the countryside checking out secondhand bookstores, and talking about whatever was our enthusiasm, we took road trips.

FICTION: A Liberating Trap

Like any interesting enterprise, Robert Kelly’s The Book from the Sky, a pataphysical novel with the ostensible feel of a made-for-TV sci-fi movie, is iffy. “I’m on my way back,” the preface begins; “I was one of the first they took away. It wasn’t from New Mexico or any desert though I was there later. All of them, your Roswell and your lake of Hali and your Gobi, don’t worry.”


When the teller of this story of stories rolls out in the first line of the first page, “Pretend you are my sister,” you suspect you’re in the hands of yet another delightfully manipulative Southern storyteller, which Douglas A. Martin certainly is, but it does nothing to prepare you for a seeming jumble of herky-jerky sentences, half-expressed back and forths, pesky digressions and episodic little gemlits about growing up at the tail-end of the Tobacco Road Erskine Caldwell carried us careening down seventy years ago.


Pink angel wings buzz in Rachel Loden’s formidable verses. Real villains like Tricky Dick and Dick Cheney are re-cast as Shakespearian spooks in technically innovative send-ups. Politics and star culture merge as the poet purges our collective soul while never losing her own.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2009

All Issues