Books

In Conversation

CHANG-RAE LEE With DAVE KIM

At 29, Chang-Rae Lee won the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award for his debut novel, Native Speaker. A Graham Greene-esque story of subterfuge and alienation set in the immigrant communities of Queens, Native Speaker is now required reading in many ethnic studies classes for its thorough examination of self-ambivalence and cross-cultural tensions.

IMMERSION, INFINITY, AND THE QUALITY OF LIFE

To avoid unnecessary complexity, the subtitle of this impressive and provocative tome, though relatively minimal in its length (94 pages), gives us a literal transcription of what is to follow, that is: Essays on the Work of Art in the Age of Computer Technology and Virtual Reality,1993-2006.

LIBERTY LITERALLY REIFIED

We all have those poets on whom we lean heavily, poets with whom we need to walk on a frequent basis. I do not remember exactly how it was that Marie Ponsot’s Admit Impediment made its first appearance onto my quick-reach shelf; I only recall that it was in the mid 1980s.

THE BIG NOWHERE CRUNCH

I make no claims to understand the term “omega point,” as used by theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and physicist Frank Tipler.

NOW READY

To title a novel about a bunch of English expats lounging poolside at an Italian castle after a quote by the founder of Russian populism, Alexander Herzen, concerning “[t]he death of the contemporary forms of social order” could be construed as asking for it.

CIRCLE SQUARED

In his striking new novel Passes Through, Rob Stephenson addresses the problem of depicting stasis in a narrative (i.e., a moving) form. The key to doing this successfully, as Stephenson does, is to make it not only convincing but engaging.

LINE OF THE EDGE

“To say this of human beings is to say both the best and the worst. They can get used to anything,” Martin Amis writes in his essay about violence in Cali, Colombia.

WHERE THE SUN SHAN’T SHINE

Lewis Warsh’s A Place in the Sun begins with a murder: two young women, Irene and Marina, are in their kitchen. Irene is ironing; Marina is at the table drinking coffee. It’s a cozy scene, domestic.

ON BEING NOIR

“You know plenty about getting sucked into stories that have already been told”: so says Philip M. Noir, private eye in Robert Coover’s latest lightly metafictive take on the hardboiled detective novel.

RAPID TRANSIT

The Bible isn’t a totally incongruous choice for R. Crumb, the originator of Zap, Snatch and Jiz comix. After all, Mr. Natural sports a long beard and robe, resembling a mystic, gurus or saint. And Genesis is wild and woolly.

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MAY 2010

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