Writing through time, real and imagined.

About three-quarters of the way through Ali Smith’s novel, Autumn, a young woman named Elisabeth pulls a chair up to the bedside of an elderly former neighbor whom she is visiting in a care home. …


On the stories of Clarice Lispector.

Today — December 10, 2020 — marks the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Clarice Lispector, whose fictions have proved abiding in their apprehensive eloquence. …


Celebrating Edna O’Brien on her 90th birthday.

In addition to being one of the most accomplished fiction writers in English in the past hundred years, Edna O’Brien possesses an intensity of purpose and a force of personality — one might more simply call this bravery — that make her seem a heroine worthy of Madame de Staël…


BOOKS

John le Carré (1931–2020)

A British intelligence agent throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, David Cornwell, under the pseudonym John le Carré, went on to use his personal experience of the ethically destitute climate of Cold War espionage to create a fictional world more unglamorous, chilling, and dispirited than any previously ventured by…


Page-turning as pilgrimage.

In 2012, the acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer published a book-length essay about his long intimacy as a reader with Graham Greene (1904–1991), capturing in his title — The Man Within My Head — the fascination Greene has held for many. …


BOOKS

On reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet

“We climbed slowly toward the greatest of our terrors of that time, we went to expose ourselves to fear and interrogate it.” So Elena Greco, called Lenù by those who know her, describes the adventure that cements her friendship with Raffaella Cerullo, known familiarly as Lina or Lila, a friendship…


Eight soulful books of contemplation and inspiration.

Frank O’Hara once called a collection of his poems Meditations in an Emergency, a title that nicely encompasses most human reflections on faith, fate, and fear, three themes that come together, in different ways, in each of the eight volumes of collected here.

Thomas Merton: The Seven Storey Mountain

Thomas Merton (1915–1968) is one of the…


On reading other people’s diaries, with recommendations worth spending time with.

There’s no book I’d rather have at my bedside than a good diary; never having been able to keep one myself, I enjoy marking the passage of days in someone else’s life in the discrete segments daily entries offer. The pleasure of such reading is cumulative, an accretion of details…


On the evolving lives of minds and words, from Oliver Sacks to the Oxford English Dictionary to T. S. Eliot.

In a 1990 essay called “Neurology and the Soul,” a piece considering then-recent books on mind, memory, and consciousness, Oliver Sacks wrote with some excitement of Gerald M. Edelman’s concept of neural Darwinism, or neuronal group selection. …


BOOKS

A small survey of large achievements in Russian fiction

Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were integral to the flowering of the Russian novel in the nineteenth century. That flowering . . . would seem to represent one of the three principal moments of triumph in the history of western literature, the other two being the time of the Athenian dramatists and…

James Mustich

Now: Author, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die. Then: publisher and chief bookseller, A Common Reader. https://www.1000bookstoread.com/

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