In the last pages of J. M. Coetzee’s The Master of Petersburg (1994), a fictive Dostoevsky ponders the question of writing as betrayal. What does it mean to exploit one’s life in one’s writing? It is also to exploit the …

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The Heron and the Lamprey

The New York Review of Books has just reissued The Interior Landscape: Classical Tamil Love Poems, one of the most abidingly beautiful of artifacts to come out of Hyde Park in Chicago.

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A middle-aged man and a five-year-old boy arrive at a relocation center in a nameless Hispanophone country. They are assigned the names Simón and David. We learn that Simón met David aboard ship and became his self-appointed guardian after David …

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| Fall, 2013

When I was in my mid-twenties, an aspiring writer casting about for material, I made a date with my friend Laura to visit the cadaver she was dissecting for anatomy class. Her professor had invited his first-year medical students to …

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| Fall, 2013

I sometimes get more pleasure from learning a thing’s name than from learning about the thing itself. When, a few years ago, my then girlfriend offered me a potato pancake, I wasn’t impressed, even though she told me about the …

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Eggers circle

Dave Eggers’s The Circle is so carelessly written, so predictably plotted, and so thinly conceived that it threatens to make a mockery of anyone who would attempt seriously to review it. Granted it has been a long time—perhaps as far …

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You’re about to tell us all about Lydia Millet. Why should we want to know about her? What you’re asking for here is what’s known as “the hook.” The hook is the part of the essay where I try to …

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| Winter, 2013

This symposium opens with a provocation: What are animals for? The question almost solicits its own rejection, invoking as it does one of the central tenets of much animal advocacy: animals are not for anything, and they ought to be …

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| Spring, 2012
Franzen Wallace3

Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace, the two most important American writers of their era, both grew up in the Midwest. Franzen describes his childhood in Webster Groves, Missouri as having unfolded “in the middle of the middle [where] there …

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| Fall, 2010

In Issue 9 of N+1, the critic (and UCLA English professor) Mark McGurl describes the problem facing the contemporary novel this way: What should the novel do once consciousness has been physically “explained”? What happens to the tradition of novelistic …

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