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.
Certain writers assault you with their intelligence, not as, or only as, a performance, but rather out of necessity: they simply cannot stop thinking. Humor has long been the balm of metacognition, laughter a scaffolding over the abyss.
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.
Black Light is a rare book. Kimberly King Parsons has delivered a work of truth and beauty that will transcend generations. If that sounds too effusive, it is not. This is also the rare book that bears promotional blurbs indistinguishable from critical reviews…
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.
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.
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.
The author of over two dozen books of fiction, criticism, and work in translation, Brian Evenson is a master of many languages, tones, voices, and forms. His work renders the distinction between“literary” and “genre" fiction trivial.
America prizes smiling. Companies in client-facing industries have been known to circulate “service with a smile” policies, which require workers to feign happiness, if necessary, to please customers. “Hey Philly, got a smile only a brother can love?” “Give Us Your Crooked, Crowded, and Snaggled Teeth.” “Come in for a lifetime supply of confidence.” So asks, begs, and pledges SmileDirectClub, one of several fix-your-face startups with pandemic advertising. I understand. I got braces freshman year of high school and did not smile with my mouth open for two years.
People complain about the city. There is never not something to complain about. The sidewalks fill with leaves — red and gold — and these critics still complain. Some people complain and never say goodbye but, sometimes, a complainer vacates. The complainer who vacates complains about the city long after she has left. She complains that when she first moved to the city, the city was great. The city was amazing — she never felt so alive. Best thing ever. Never had so much fun. But the city is not great nor amazing nor the best anymore, and it never will be again, she claims. It changed. Forever, she alleges. The city changed. Not the critical complainer, though, just the city doing all the changing.
Christian loves culture. It’s how he spends all of his time. He champions good books (with the exception of graphic novels), reading the books he likes twice, even three times in a row. He listens to podcasts. He spends entire days “at the movies,” going to double and even triple features at a single theater. Culture is Christian’s life, and writing about culture is his life’s work.
Friday night, in Toronto, Slovenian philosopher and analyst Slavoj Žižek will debate Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson on the topic of “Happiness: Capitalism vs. Marxism,” with Stephen Blackwood moderating.
What is a ghost? Is it an apparition that appears at night to frighten us? Is it a spirit at unrest, refusing to pass on to the next life until it settles a score with our world? Are ghosts corporeal or bodiless? Real or imagined? Alive or dead? Nell Freudenberger tackles these questions in her third novel Lost and Wanted, which centers around Helen Clapp, a brilliant physicist and single mother coping with the sudden death of Charlie, a black Hollywood screenwriter and Helen’s best friend from college.
Tommy Orange leans against the wall near the entrance of the large spotlit room in which the reception for the National Book Critics Circle Awards is being held. He’s noticeably taller than the other partygoers, with a round, boyish face topped with a silky mop of black hair.
Some of the best novelists in the Americas and Europe have written about chess—yet one of the best chess novels, Chess Story (published in German as Schachnovelle; also known as The Royal Game) by Stefan Zweig, was written by an otherwise less than superlative author.