A Technical Masterwork: On Ben Lerner's THE TOPEKA SCHOOL

by Zack Graham

You don’t read Ben Lerner’s writing. You read Ben Lerner’s mind. His immense, contorted, self-effacing, hilarious intellect propels his narratives. Sure, his novels have characters, plots, themes. But those elements aren’t why Lerner is one of America’s best young fiction writers. Lerner is brilliant, and his novels resemble doctored and polished transcripts of his mind’s inner workings.

Communing with the Imaginary Friend in Amanda Goldblatt's HARD MOUTH

by Tess Crain

What is the meaning of an imaginary friend? Appearing mainly to children but at times lasting into adulthood, invented companions can signal madness, creativity, both, or neither. Sometimes, they simply serve as company. A writer I know used to have an unreal pal named Zee—“he had a kind of sarcastic jauntiness”—who resembled a wisp of smoke and wore a monocle, like an ephemeral Mr. Peanut: “he was my only real friend for a while.” My roommate had a tiny, bald, blue man who sat on her shoulder and scouted for danger. A college friend once had multiple miniature dragons. In most cases, these familiars erupt from the collision between psyche and environment: reading a fantasy series, watching performance art, loneliness.

Master of Horror To-Be: On the Nightmares of Nick Antosca

by Zack Graham

You probably haven’t heard of Nick Antosca, but you will soon. He wrote on one of the most psychologically nuanced and visually arresting television series ever in “Hannibal.” In late 2017, Guillermo del Toro signed on to produce Antosca’s feature-length script Antlers. At 36, Antosca is well on his way to becoming a modern master of horror, on par with a Robert Eggers, an Ari Aster, or a Jordan Peele.

All Horrors Under the Midnight Sun: On Nesbø’s KNIFE

by Tess Crain

Everyone in Oslo has a parquet floor. This is what I’ve gathered, anyway, from reading the crime fiction of Jo Nesbø. While Nesbø has written standalone novels (like the excellent Headhunters and The Son), parquetry is general throughout his Harry Hole (“whoule” in Norwegian; how it looks in English) series, about the brilliant but polarizing Oslo Police detective, distinguished by his alcoholism and hail-mary competence. Two sentences into The Devil’s Star, water leaves “a wet streak over the oak parquet” of an apartment. In Nemesis, a thief’s shoes click loudly on the parquet flooring of a bank. A doctor in The Redbreast gazes sadly at “the worn parquet floor” of his office.

Upstate Dispatch: Which One Were You?

by Harris Lahti

As I drive, the country highway’s pattern of overgrown campgrounds, boarded-up motels, and stretches of impenetrably dark woods begin to resemble a series of horror movie sets, at last punctuated by a white-steepled church illuminated with halogen lights. I pull into the parking lot the church shares with an enormous prefab building of black corrugated steel. Skate Time.

With THE NICKEL BOYS, Colson Whitehead Yet Again Proves His Brilliance

by Zack Graham

One of the most talented American novelists of his generation, Colson Whitehead’s nine books constitute about as diverse a body of work as any living writer’s. His settings include a post-apocalyptic zombie attack, an American slave plantation in the 1700s, the mid-’80s Hampton’s, and the modern World Poker Tour. He is the recipient of nearly every serious literary award and/or honor known to mankind, and his essays and stories have appeared in every leading English-language newspaper and magazine. The man is a national treasure.

The Ways In Which We Borrow

by Robb Todd

There is trouble on the street tonight. Had a premonition that she should not go alone. She caught me stealing once when I was five. I enjoy stealing. It is as simple as that. It is just a simple fact. Because mutiny on the bounty is what we are all about. We are going to board your ship and turn it on out.