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In Conversation

CATE MARVIN with Elizabeth Trundle

If there’s a story that starts and stops, pauses, picks back up and ploughs forward through Cate Marvin’s three books of poetry, it’s the story of a heart that would have broken if it were fragile or dumb enough to crack, or a heart that was taken back bitterly because it was unwanted, but maybe wasn’t given altogether away.

The Deadling Memo

Helen Phillips’s The Beautiful Bureaucrat may not be the only novel this season to exhibit a certain amount of nausée in the face of big data—Louisa Hall’s Speak is one, and Franzen’s Purity looms large as another—but it is, to my knowledge, the only such novel to feature on its cover an enormous pomegranate.

The Quotidian Ephemera of Women’s Lives

I began reading Elena Ferrante’s so-called “Neapolitan Novels” after a very close friend recommended them to me on the highest possible terms. The friendship that is at the heart of the novels, she told me, reminded her of our own friendship.

Elasticity Itself

One of the many difficulties of writing a book about Dada (or, for that matter, writing a review of a book about Dada) is its very slipperiness, a resistance to the clean lines of demarcation and definition.

The Great Denial

As its title suggests, the subject of Charlene Spretnak’s most recent book is the long history of artists’ engagement with the spiritual dimension throughout the trajectory of modern art.

Upgrade or Retrograde?

Recently, I took my cracked and obsolete iPhone 4S to the AT&T store for a much-needed trade. I sauntered in proudly and, with no effort to modulate a note of pleased roguishness in my voice, declared to the salesperson that I wished to turn in the battle-scarred old smartphone for—how did I put it?—“Just a basic cell phone.”

In Conversation


Both Vincent Katz and Carter Ratcliff have recently published new books: Katz’s Swimming Home (Nightboat Books) in May, and Ratcliff’s Tequila Mockingbird (Barrytown/Station Hill Press) in June. The two interviewed one another for the Rail on the subjects of poetry, novels, the audience, and the point of writing in the first place.


Before we are introduced to the protagonist of Matt Bell’s second novel, Scrapper, it seems in the opening pages that the main character of the book will be the city of Detroit. Not the Detroit of past glory and prosperity, nor the Detroit that is occasionally looked to now as a place for priced-out New Yorkers to start over, but a Detroit in which the specter of decay has finally won out over all hope for renewal.

Stories About the Storm

In 1963, a storm approaches Cuba, and an elderly woman named María Sirena knows that it is coming. She sees the “ferocious churn of the sky, like a black mouth opening and closing.” This mouth-storm tells stories—but bigger than stories. The storm is “bigger than all of Cuba.” There is talk that this storm over Haiti had wrenched away the sea to reveal a sunken ship, and then dropped the sea back onto it.

In Conversation

The People Come First:
Alcott with Catherine LaSota

Infinite Home is the second novel by the immensely talented young writer Kathleen Alcott. Published earlier this year, Infinite Home has already found itself on several must-read book lists for 2015, and for good reason. Alcott excels at creating a group of characters that feels natural and unique, and every single one of them grabs at the reader’s heart in different ways.

Apocalypse of the Vanities

From its very first pages displaying screenshots of a fictitious memory program and infectious, babel-inducing spools of code interrupting the text, Mark Doten’s hallucinatory sci-fi novel The Infernal reveals its situation within a new, digital-mimetic fiction.

The Story of My Teeth

Let’s acknowledge that the vast majority of art involves a balance between being asked something and being given something (usually, attention/work given over for the deep pleasure of meaning/empathy/story/connection), and let’s further acknowledge that the way we usually think about this stuff has to do with whether the art is easy/commercial or hard/pure.

Given Enough Rope

Lincoln Michel has brought off a worthy debut in Upright Beasts, a rowdy klatch of stories with a number of winners. The fictions leave their most beautiful bruises about halfway through, as the author swings without a hitch from the relative realism of the section titled “North American Mammals” to the stories collected under “Familiar Creatures,” each of them a wild narrative hair.

Prodigal Thoughts

Last month, my wife and I went with family to Wyoming, where we stayed in a wooden cabin fronted by a tall wide deck, offering a perfect natural picture: the rocky peaks of the Teton Range, the long grasses and grounds between here and there, and a high blue sky all swollen with mountain-sized clouds made of white feathers. A fat brown moose took a nap in our yard.

Call Me Harry

The only troubling thing about Richard Price’s excellent new novel, The Whites, is the curious use of a pseudonym, or—in this case—a quasi-one.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2015

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