Adam Thirlwell’s most recent novel is Lurid and Cute. (November 2017)


Small-Town Noir

Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, and David Lynch in Twin Peaks: The Return

Twin Peaks: The Return

a television series created by Mark Frost and David Lynch
I often wonder if David Lynch is the era’s most original artist, or at least the creator of its most haunting images—the severed ear in Blue Velvet, the Red Room in Twin Peaks, the Mystery Man in Lost Highway—but his works feel too schlocky, seedy, tearful, too male, too white for me to want to say this often in conversation. His cinema is disreputably baroque, brimming with meaning that it seems to disavow.

Tennis, Anyone?

Álvaro Enrigue, Harlem, 2013

Sudden Death

by Álvaro Enrigue, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
Álvaro Enrigue’s new novel, Sudden Death, is so waywardly intelligent, violently disparate in its settings, and excitingly intricate in its composition that perhaps the best way of beginning a description of the pleasures it offers is to inspect an isolated early chapter. It’s called “Beheading,” and it tells the story …

It’s Still a Scandal!

James Joyce, circa 1922

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses

by Kevin Birmingham
Something is missing in Ulysses—which could be called romanticism, or the ideal, or the metaphysical; and its absence is the deep reason why Joyce’s early readers were so alarmed, and why it can still disturb.

The Giant Slightness of Being

Can’t and Won’t

by Lydia Davis
How small can a story be? In the avant-garde underground of Stalinist Leningrad, Daniel Kharms once wrote a story in two sentences. In the first, he described how one day “a man on his way to work met another man who, having bought a loaf of Polish bread, …


Romania: On the Border of the Real

The image of an interior shattered by outside forces could be the emblem for all Cristian Mungiu’s films. He loves to present stories in which someone’s integrity is assailed by external influences, and Graduation offers one of his most melancholy contraptions for testing his characters’ limitations.

Raúl Ruiz: From One World to the Next

Still from Raúl Ruiz's City of Pirates, 1938

Raúl Ruiz’s career can be understood as a sustained resistance, a manic guerrilla operation, against two forms of power: the violence of Pinochet’s dictatorship, and the control on conventional movie-making exerted by Hollywood. He is the exile director: a Latin American who made most of his movies in English, French, or Portuguese—and whose aesthetic inhabits an absolute alien territory.

Unserious Austen

Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon and Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin in Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship, 2016

Trying to examine Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, our definitions like adaptation or rewrite become faintly anachronistic, or clumsy. Stillman’s cinematic innovation has been to bathe cinema in a literary tone, a charmed artificiality. Now he has made an adaptation of Lady Susan—an early Jane Austen novella, unpublished until after her death.

A Thousand Movies in One

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes in “The Enchanted One,” the third part of Arabian Nights, 2015

Director Miguel Gomes has always enjoyed combining two separate elements in a single film, and in Arabian Nights this technique is cosmically expanded. The dream is of pure lightness (a film as fantasia) and simultaneously of pure weight (a film as witness). Or, to put this another way: How do you take political and aesthetic risks in a film’s form while dramatizing them within that film as well?