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The Rules of Obsession

Jaime Clarke’s Vernon Downs is a fast-moving and yet, at times, quite sad book about, in the broadest sense, longing. The specifics of the longing, ultimately, revolve around a simple premise: a boy (Charlie Martens) has a crush on a cute British girl (Olivia). He wants to impress her, wants her in the most basic, biological way.

Prismatic Plato

In Plato, there is but one historical figure. But the man’s philosophy, so elegant and elemental, marked a major leap in the Western history of human thought. Plato gave first shape to the same questions of value and meaning that baffle us today, more than 2,000 years later.

Wading Into the Grey

When all is said and left undone, it may fall to history to record that one person was convicted by an international court for the massive, auto-genocidal crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

Enemy and Promised Land

Andrew Hussey’s The French Intifada is the second book in a row I’ve reviewed that at least partially addresses the Arab Spring. Its subject is France’s current domestic struggles with “its Arabs,” as Hussey terms it, as well as a history of France’s relations with what are now its former Maghreb colonies: Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia—which was ground zero for the Arab Spring.

In Conversation

DANIEL LEVINE with Benjamin Percy

Dan Levine and I didn’t just go to college together: we roomed together, took many of the same classes, acted in some of the same theater productions and chased some of the same girls, hefted weights at the gym, spent hours refining our impressions of certain tweedy professors and loudmouth students, slammed Jello shots and shotgunned beers and took in deep skunky lungfuls of whatever herb we could score, trekked our way to a skeezy tattoo parlor to get inked, ate countless cafeteria servings of chicken parm in each other’s company, dressed up as the Karate Kid skeletons for Halloween, high-fived Method Man at a Wu-Tang Clan concert.

In Conversation

ADAM WILSON with Ben Pfeiffer

In his new collection, What’s Important Is Feeling, Adam Wilson unleashes 12 ecstatic yet recognizable fictional voices, each deeply his own and also somehow a fragment of contemporary cultural consciousness.

Unlikely Pairs

How easy it would have been for Ruchama King Feuerman to write the typical Jerusalem novel, with the typical Middle East obliquities: Arab-Israeli/Israeli-Jew friendship pitted against the external tension of social and political pressures. Romeo and Juliet in the shuk. But Feuerman isn’t typical, and in her new book, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, she tells a story that is spiritually generous and astutely realistic.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2014

All Issues