Julie Wu’s debut novel, The Third Son (Algonquin), depicts the struggles of a Taiwanese boy, Saburo Tong, to escape his impoverished, cruel background and to establish a meaningful adult life for himself, a journey that takes him from poverty and oppression in Taiwan to the opportunity and relative freedom of 1950s America.
David Shields is a very lucky man. I think that most of us, when we enjoy something that everyone else seems to hate (or when we dislike a thing that they all love), feel a twinge of nervousness, a quiver of doubt. Perhaps we feel superior and isolated at the same time, wondering why we, in this case, appear so separate from the crowd. Not David Shields. One of the most notable qualities of both his 2010 book Reality Hunger, and his recent essay, “Life is Short: Art is Shorter,” co-authored with Elizabeth Cooperman, in the Feb 2013 issue of […]
I read Elizabeth Jonsson’s “The Silver Sky” in a Reader’s Digest anthology, and, judging by a search on Amazon and Google Books, that may be the only place it can now be found. And I would not laud the story as a perfect gem, either, because for most of its seven pages, I felt confused about what I was reading. A German settler returns to the West South African castle of his youth, this time bringing an English wife. He remembers his youth, considers the region’s “heartbreak castles” (built by wealthy Germans before the first world war), dwells on his […]
The Dutch author Nescio wrote little, quite rarely, and under a pseudonym that means “I don’t know” – yet he’s quite famous in Holland. In the first English translation of his major stories, a group of poor artists struggle to make sense of Amsterdam between the wars. The world is changing out from under them – sound familiar?
In his 1994 book Peddling Prosperity, the economist Paul Krugman offered an analogy that I have never been able to forget. He suggests that modern economics, which he fondly calls a “primitive science,” has reached about the same level of development that medicine reached in 1900. Medical researchers had, by that time , accumulated a great deal of information about the human body and its workings, and were capable of giving some critically usefully advice about how to avoid disease. They could not, however, cure very much. Indeed, the doctor / essayist Lewis Thomas tells us that the most […]
In the conclusion to his season-long exploration of Saul Bellow’s work, Daniel Wallace tackles the sticky problem of Bellow’s endings, what happens to characters over a 50-year career, and how the author’s nonfiction illuminates his talent for storytelling and argument—perhaps even moreso than the novels.
In this two-part essay, Daniel Wallace devotes himself to the work of Saul Bellow for a season. Total immersion in Bellow’s progress as a writer reveals the perplexing philosophical problems at the heart of many of the novels, the difference between early and later books, and the unadulterated beauty of Bellow’s paragraphs.
Some stories feel found, not written, their lines etched on the walls of ancient Lemuria, or coded into the seams of certain carbon isotopes, no more the product of fallible modern humanity than the laws of arithmetic or the curve of the Milky Way. The opening chapters of The Great Gatsby, for instance, possess this kind of inevitability, as does Deborah Eisenberg’s short story “Some Other, Better Otto,” from her 2006 collection, Twilight of the Superheroes. Eisenberg’s Otto is a man who transmutes every conversation, philosophical conjecture, and family gathering into material for his own mental processes, seeking in the […]
In his guide for writers, How to Write a Sentence, literary theorist Stanley Fish outlines a method for improving your prose style, showing readers how to dissect and learn from famous sentences of the past. His book is concise, lucid, and eloquent. But does his method work? Daniel Wallace puts it to the test.
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