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When Rent Was Cheap and Dance Music Reigned

Halfway through Tim Lawrence’s “Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor: 1980-1983,” a six-hundred-page book about four years in the life of a dozen New York City clubs, there’s a short chapter called “Shrouded Abatements and Mysterious...Show More Summary

17 Short Books

This was floating around social media yesterday, so I thought I’d share it here. 17 short books I stand behind absolutely. Reconsolidation by Janice Lee. One of the most beautiful, touching, and profound lyric essays I’ve read in a long time. An inspiration while I was writing The Surrender. The Mirror in the Well by Continue Reading

Literary prize: Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

The first Newman Prize for Chinese Literature went to Sandalwood Death-author Mo Yan in 2009 -- three years before he won the Nobel Prize -- and the four others who have gone on to win this biennial author-prize are pretty impressive...Show More Summary

Literary prize: Giller Prize shortlist

The (Canadian) Scotiabank Giller Prize has announced its six-title shortlist; the winner of the C$100,000 prize will be announced 7 November.

Blitz review

The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Spanish author David Trueba's Blitz, just out from Other Press.

Ballads of Bottles and Blades

The ballad is a form that can easily sound antiquated and sing-song on the page. This is, of course, because “sing-song” isn’t a negative descriptor when describing actual song, and ballads are, indeed, songs. On-the-nose rhyme (knee, three; fall, ball),… Continue reading ?

L. Shapley Bassen: “A Response to Jamie Zvirzdin’s ‘Observations of a Science Editor’”

I laughed in recognition at the very first sentence of Jamie Zvirzdin’s lecture: “It is no secret that science writing is often abysmally inaccessible, even for the initiated—like a bizarre ancient ritual that even its most faithful modern practitioners don’t… Continue reading ?

The Return of the Utopians

Five hundred years ago, a man who condoned torture, religious persecution, and burning at the stake wrote a book about the perfect world. In “On the Best Kind of a Republic and About the New Island of Utopia” (the book’s full title,Show More Summary

Tana French’s Intimate Crime Fiction

All crime novels are social novels. They can’t help it; without a society to define, condemn, and punish it, crime itself wouldn’t exist. Even the detective fiction that seems most untethered from real-world concerns—those British country-house...Show More Summary

This Week in Fiction: Etgar Keret on the Purest Form of Racism

When you first sent me your story “To the Moon and Back,” you mentioned that it had been written in response to a political incident. Last March, an Israeli soldier shot in the head a Palestinian terrorist who was already incapacitated, killing him. Show More Summary

David Hare does/on Georges Simenon

David Hare's The Red Barn, his adaptation of Georges Simenon's La main, opens at the National Theatre on 6 October -- see also the Faber publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk -- and in The Observer he has a nice piece...Show More Summary

The Eskimo Solution review

The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's The Eskimo Solution, an early one from when he made the transition from kids' book author to something more creepily adult -- as does his protagonist in this one.

Trump and Clinton: The Victorian Novel

I think I really began to like this Trump fellow when he tore his coat off, dived into a raging river, and saved a drowning woman after she’d been flung from a train wreck.

Prix Sade

They've announced the winner of this year's prix Sade. French literary prizes generally have a poor-to-non-existent web presence, but even here the prix Sade stands out in taking the worst approach imaginable: solely having a 'Facebook'...Show More Summary

Cundill Prize in Historical Literature longlist

I'm a few days late with this, but they've announced the longlist for the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature, a Canadian prize that nevertheless pays out in US dollars -- a tidy 75,000 to the winning author. A manageable longlist...Show More Summary

Links & Reviews

The world lost a true bookman of the highest order on Thursday. Through his bookselling and publishing firms Oak Knoll Books & Press, Bob Fleck labored tirelessly over the last forty years to make important works of bibliographical and book-historical scholarship available to readers, scholars, and collectors. Show More Summary

A Report from the Deep Wilds of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in the Cathedral

I’m a little over halfway through Mario Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in the Cathedral and thought I would drop in with some thoughts and observations. This is a major early work for Vargas Llosa, his third novel (written when he was 33) and running to about 600 pages. Published in 1969, it grapples with what was Continue Reading

Ng?g? wa Thiong'o wins Pak Kyong Ni Prize

Previous winners of the relatively new South Korean author prize, the Pak Kyong Ni Prize, include Amos Oz (last year), Marilynne Robinson (2013), and Lyudmila Ulitskaya (2012), and they've now announced that this year's winner of the 100 million won (ca. Show More Summary

The Brother review

The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Estonian author Rein Raud's The Brother, just out in English from Open Letter. A nice little novel that deserves some/more attention.

“The Bestseller Code” Tells Us What We Already Know

“The Bestseller Code,” a new book in which Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers present an algorithm for detecting the sales potential of other books, has, not surprisingly, a commercially canny title. “The Da Vinci Code,” after all, has sold more than eighty million copies. Show More Summary

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