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In Conversation

ANDREA SCRIMA with Leora Skolkin-Smith

I look around me and imagine that I have the wild look of a person who has five minutes to pack her things and flee,” the narrator recounts in Andrea Scrima’s provocative novel, A Lesser Day. Rendered in segments circumscribed by places in which she has lived, in a narrative that is not linear, but rather flows back and forth in time, Scrima’s intricately wrought story follows the life of a young woman suspended between past and present and uncertain about who she has become.

The Gut Wants What It Wants

Amelia Gray’s Gutshot bristles in the best way. Just about every prick and sting compels you to seek more, to take up the next story—gingerly—and the next. Indeed, the author’s second set of short fiction represents an advance for her in its size alone.

In Conversation

GREGORY SPATZ with Doug Dorst

I’ve admired Greg Spatz’s work for years now—since we were students together at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, when I’d come across lines like the following in his workshop stories: I began having the weird sensation of distances disappearing.

Human Divinity

We can safely assume that when Fortune magazine sent James Agee from the Chrysler Building to the cotton fields of Alabama, at the height of the Great Depression, they did not expect him to return with a piece of writing they would never publish, and which would become, for nearly 80 years, a lacuna in the realm of American letters.

City of Exception

Part shaggy intellectual ruin, part holy text of urban theology, the German cultural critic Walter Benjamin’s unfinished magnum opus The Arcades Project—a kaleidoscopic study of 19th-century Parisian city life—is perhaps best read as a kind of cipher or secret code wherein the metropolis itself is revealed to be the critical document of modernity.

The Frontier’s Finale

At least in books, it’s easy to see the ends. I make this quip because endings and their ambiguity are one of the themes of Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight. And also because for much of the book, I couldn’t wait for the end to arrive.

The (Practical) Pursuit of Happiness

In a scene from Woody Allen’s 1977 film Annie Hall, the main character, Alvy Singer, having recently broken up with his erstwhile girlfriend, Annie, encounters a tall, beautiful couple on a Manhattan street. He stops them and says, “You look like a very happy couple.

On the Shores of Word and Image

“In the beginning was the Word.” But what do we lose when we value language over images? And how can we think using both at once, the visual and the verbal?


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2015

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