Elaine Blair is a regular contributor to The New York Review. (July 2013)
Sontag: Reborn a play adapted and performed by Moe Angelos, directed by Marianne Weems
Girls a television series on HBO created by Lena Dunham
The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq, translated from the French by Gavin Bowd
House of Holes: A Book of Raunch by Nicholson Baker
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz
The Humbling by Philip Roth
Out of My Skin by John Haskell
The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon, with photographs by Velibor Bozovic and from the Chicago Historical Society
The Last Chicken in America: A Novel in Stories by Ellen Litman
Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis
Like any kind of comedy, a sitcom can have a marriage at its very end, but a marriage somewhere in the middle is narrative disaster. And since sitcoms are, effectively, comedies without end, it’s hard to write a marriage into the show in a way that encourages—rather than dashes—our illusions of its rightness.
The man who feels himself unloved and unlovable—this is a character that we know well from the latest generation or two of American novels. His trials are often played for sympathetic laughs. His loserdom is total: it extends to his stunted career, his squalid living quarters, his deep unease in the world.
You often hear the Putin era described as one of exhaustion and resignation on the part of the Russian electorate. Robin Hessman’s documentary My Perestroika, about the fall of the Soviet Empire as recalled by three men and two women now in their forties, fairly pulses with depressed resignation—pulses weakly, of course, resignation not being much of a stimulant.