Books

The Glory of Grammar

For over 30 years, comma queen Mary Norris has reigned the page as a copy editor at the New Yorker magazine. She’s fixed modifiers, caught misspellings, and dissected sentences. She’s considered punctuation as art, as well as logic.

Unsentimental Education

As the primary bearer of the contemporary avant-garde novel, there’s an unmistakable element of the nouveau romancier in McCarthy, a devout anti-humanist whose work upends the convention of sentimentality disguised as realism that defines a type of middling Anglophone literature in the 21st century.

In Conversation

ALICE EVE COHEN with Caroline Leavitt

A memoir has to be totally factual. Or does it? Stories change with the telling, and we ourselves are always changing, so is there such a thing as absolute truth? What’s really important is getting at the deeper truths, the ones that resonate and change lives.

This Is Belgian Chocolate: Manifestations of Poetry

As I began composing this review, I typed the word “language” incorrectly as “linguate”: tongue-shaped. According to the glossary of orchid terms—a lexicon based on the taxonomic works of Linnaeus, which I found, of course, online—the word refers to the shape of certain orchids.

Seeking Control and Connection

Shelly Oria’s debut collection, New York 1, Tel Aviv 0, gives us 18 stories that follow characters negotiating the tricky natures of their closest relationships, including lovers in a long-term three-way, an estranged father and daughter, a man and his only friends in town, and a woman addicted to married men and her therapist friend who tries to cure her.

In Conversation

MARK WISNIEWSKI with Daniel Woodrell

Sometimes my mailman hates me—I get a lot of books delivered to my door since we have no bookstore within a hundred miles and I buy a lot of books, plus he has to lug all those that are sent to me by nice publishing people I apparently met and had drinks with at the only big publishing event I’ve ever attended.

The Crossdresser’s Secret

Brian O’Doherty has written a profoundly speculative novel about a historical figure, Charles-Geneviève-Louise-Auguste-André-Thimothée d’éon de Beaumont (1728 – 1810), better known as the Chevalier d’éon.

Painglorious

Misery loves company, they say. And it’s true: unhappiness is easier to bear when shared. We spend our lives acting as witnesses to our pain, trying to convince those around us of its heft and actuality.

Hybrid Beings

In Mohsin Hamid’s new collection of essays, Discontent and Its Civilizations, the author calls for a human population that is both aware and more tolerant of the complexities, intricacies, and pluralities of the human experience in an increasingly globalized world.

Guilty as Charged

Last fall, I was volunteering for a podcast producing an episode on the state of the world’s oceans. Of course I knew the theme would be depressing. I just never expected to what extent. Several interviews in, I was in a state of mild panic. I vowed never to eat shrimp again and to adhere strictly to the Monterey Aquarium’s guide for sustainable fishing.

The Uncertainty Principle

The essayist Kent Russell had two grandfathers who made a tradition of bestowing gifts of their own military memorabilia on his birthdays while recounting their heroic exploits in World War II.

In Conversation

Jaime Clarke in Conversation with David Bezmozgis, Maud Casey, Ramona Ausubel, Hannah Pittard, Rebecca Makkai, Charles Bock, Brock Clarke, David James Poissant, and Lydia Millet

Jaime Clarke’s new novel, World Gone Water, enlarges the portrait of Charlie Martens—first introduced in Clarke’s Vernon Downs (2014)—a young man grappling with how to navigate the world. Set in Phoenix, seven years before the events of Vernon Downs, Charlie finds himself released from a voluntary stay at a behavioral clinic in the Sonoran desert, the result of an incident with a woman he met while tending bar in Florida where Charlie had fled to forget his high school sweetheart, whose sudden marriage to someone else devastates him.

Secrets and Lives

By conventional measures, July’s characters appear unreliable if not certifiably insane, so it’s easy to label her work “quirky” or “whimsical.” It has a dreamlike quality. But there is more to it than smoke and mirrors.

In the Dark without Searchlights

“We learned in school that funeral elegies / Laments and threnodies / were reserved for big public occasions / And so the classical poets sang / Of heroes who fell valiantly in battle,” writes Edward Hirsch in his brilliant new book-length poem “Gabriel: A Poem,” a glistening and sorrow filled story about the loss and mourning of child.

In Conversation

Patrick Phillips in conversation with Hirsh Sawhney

Poet Patrick Phillips’s latest book, Elegy for a Broken Machine: poems, is a graceful meditation on grief and memory. The poems in this volume offer unflinching perspectives on illness and aging, and yet they are permeated by a subtle optimism, wisdom, and wit.

Game of Scribes: Chaucer and the Invention of the Maximalist Narrative

In Strohm’s opinion, the painting of Chaucer before the king contains an invented scene, a folk fantasy imagined retroactively some time after the poet’s death. And the king? Well, that’s Richard II. At least it was the king until somebody got it in mind to scratch his resemblance out, so that what reached us over the course of the centuries is Chaucer reading his work to a royal audience, at the center of which sits a faceless head wearing a crown.

In Conversation

RADICAL ALTERITY
MIKE YOUNG with Elizabeth Trundle

I met Mike Young when he read for the Buzzard’s Banquet series in a Fort Greene bar. Due to a booking mix-up, the room with tables, chairs, and a microphone went to a group of stand-up comedians; the poetry and fiction crowd landed in the storage cellar with a dangling light bulb and a reek of stale beer. Mike kept it fresh and interactive by passing out free black Sharpies(!) and hard copies of his poem.

Time Ages In a Hurry: Stories

Over in Italy, Time Ages In a Hurry was one of a spate of Antonio Tabucchi titles preceding his death in early 2012. He wasn’t that old, 68, but he’d long been battling cancer, and in his last year friends and family moved him from Siena, where he taught, to Lisbon, the home of his heart.

In Conversation

WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT CANNABIS:
Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian with Amy Deneson

he professional networking organization Women Grow invited investigative journalists Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian to discuss their critically acclaimed book A New Leaf with a room full of budding cannabis entrepreneurs.

Peter Pan: the Ultimate Alt-Bro

“I read it to [anonymous little boy] twice and cried both times,” my friend, then a nanny, told me. We were talking about Peter Pan, which I had read upon her recommendation. We agreed that the novel was sad but disagreed about why. My friend thought it inevitably disappointing that Wendy grew up, leaving Peter behind. As an adult having read the book, I think the story is sad because Peter refuses to grow up and that this is unfortunate for all parties.

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APR 2015

All Issues