April Bernard’s most recent books are Romanticism, a ­collection of poems, and Miss Fuller, a novel. (October 2014)

IN THE REVIEW

Lisbon, 1989

The new year lurched
on a clamor of horns
trash cans and firecrackers
rising up from the harbor
over the window sills
into a hotel room where
civility had just died.

‘In the Face of Our Ghastly Sexual Culture’

A.L. Kennedy, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2008

All the Rage

by A.L. Kennedy

The Blue Book

by A.L. Kennedy
“Why are you telling me this?” A friend often poses this dry and disconcerting question to the stories, fictional and otherwise, that come her way. Of all the reasons someone may tell a story—and there are many more than Cicero’s famous three, “to teach, to please, to move”—surely the most …

Margaret Drabble: In Defiance of Time

Margaret Drabble, Porlock, Somerset, July 2011

The Pure Gold Baby

by Margaret Drabble

The Needle’s Eye

by Margaret Drabble
It only makes sense that a novelist of such long tenure, one so preoccupied with the slippery nature of time, should actually write a novel on the subject of “prolepsis”—the anticipation of future events. Margaret Drabble uses the adjectival form of the word frequently in her new novel, beginning with the first sentence: “What she felt for those children, as she was to realize some years later, was a proleptic tenderness.” When one notices its insistent reuse, by a writer of such verbal precision, consulting the dictionary seems a good idea.

Heroines in the Garden

Evariste Carpentier: A Summer Afternoon, circa 1900

The Signature of All Things

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Archangel

by Andrea Barrett
Andrea Barrett is a splendid writer of what, for lack of any better term, we call literary fiction; Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the extremely popular memoir Eat, Pray, Love, is an energetic scribbler. Barrett writes of science and scientists from profound understanding and passion, exploring how scientific reason and human feeling collide and illuminate one another. Gilbert’s novel is another matter.

NYR DAILY

A New Trip to Lindgren Land

Astrid Lindgren with Inger Nilsson (right) as Pippi Longstocking, during the filming of Pippi in the South Seas, Sweden, 1969

I usually have no patience for “happy family” literature, not to mention the contemporary habit of adults reading mediocre books for “young adults,” whoever they might be. But when I read Astrid Lindgren’s Seacrow Island (1964), for the first time this spring, I liked it so much that I consumed it slowly, like a savored cake. A month later I read it again, perhaps even more deliberately. It is a beautiful book, for adult readers as well as the children to whom it could be read.

Laura’s World

Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls, circa 1879–1881

The knowledge that I was only one of a crowd of children devoted to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of American pioneer life could not have altered the intensity of my personal attachment to the brave, and often surprisingly lonely, heroine, the girl Laura whose travels with her family take her from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to Indian Territory (Kansas); then to Minnesota and, finally, Dakota Territory, in the years from 1869 to 1883. By fifteen, I was already nostalgic for Laura’s world and for my eight-year-old self who had first discovered it.

Mice: Naughty and Nice

The mice in The Tailor of Gloucester

As with many classics, if Beatrix Potter’s tales have become invisibly “charming,” it is time to return to them and see them anew. The Tale of Two Bad Mice captures perfectly not only Potter’s “subversive” side with respect to bourgeois society, but more primitively, her reworking of what we must surmise are the frustrations of her youth.

Caged Laughter

A scene from Orange Is the New Black

Is it possible to feel more ambivalent than I do about Orange Is the New Black? I love the actors and I especially love that it is about a culture of women. It is good to see a light shed on the disgraceful situation of prisons in this country. But the experience of being entertained by this soap opera—which is often extremely funny—turns us into tourists of suffering.

NYR CALENDAR