Francine Prose is a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bard. Her new novel, Mister Monkey, was published last autumn. (March 2017)


Groping and Not Finding

Edward Hoagland, Bennington, Vermont, 2001

In the Country of the Blind

by Edward Hoagland
Sixty years have passed since the publication of Edward Hoagland’s first book, Cat Man, a novel that drew on his experience working with big cats in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Since then, he has written more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, essay collections and …

The Triumph of Foxy Grandpa

Michael Chabon, Oakland, California, January 2016; photograph by Benjamin Tice Smith


by Michael Chabon
On his deathbed, a cantankerous old Jewish guy, his habitual reticence disarmed by a painkiller, tells his life story to his grandson, a writer named Michael Chabon. This scenario, the premise of Chabon’s new novel, may make Moonglow sound more syrupy, more gimmicky—and less entertaining—than it is. In fact it’s …

The Cult of Saint Franz

Is that Kafka?: 99 Finds

by Reiner Stach, translated from the German by Kurt Beals
Almost a century after his death in 1924, Franz Kafka has become a sort of modern-day saint, one of those artist-martyrs revered, like Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo, partly for their work and partly for the suffering they endured in order to create it. The process of Kafka’s “canonization” …

Quality Lit: She Took Charge

Blanche Knopf at Blake’s Bookshop, London, summer 1946

The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire

by Laura Claridge
In the opening paragraph of The Lady with the Borzoi, Laura Claridge provides a highly compressed and useful explanation of why one might want to read a biography of Blanche Knopf, who profoundly and permanently influenced the American public’s ideas about, and taste in, literature. In the early years of …


‘Sex and the City’ in Hell

Shailene Woodley as Jane, Reese Witherspoon as Madeline, and Nicole Kidman as Celeste, in Jean-Marc Vallée's Big Little Lies, 2017

What are we meant to conclude about the sexual experiences of women when we realize that two out of four of the smart, beautiful women in the HBO series Big Little Lies have been—or are being—abused? Perhaps it’s a sign of the times in which we live, that something intended to be a frothy, sexy Sunday night entertainment (it has been described as “darkly comic”) should turn out to conceal a message about the prevalence of overt and hidden violence against women.

Cocktails in a Cruel Country

Michael Tucker, Matthew Broderick, Wallace Shawn and Jill Eikenberry in Wallace Shawn’s Evening at the Talk House, directed by Scott Elliott, Off-Broadway at The New Group, 2017

Wallace Shawn’s new play, Evening at the Talk House, brings us into an all-too-plausible near future in which vicious beatings (occasionally administered by one’s friends) have become commonplace, a world in which it is understood that committing political murders and selecting targets for long-distance killing are socially useful and practical part-time jobs: relatively effortless and even necessary ways to supplement one’s income.

The Dystopia in the Mirror

Tobias Menzies as Liam Monroe, Chloe Pirrie as Gwendolyn, Jack Monaghan as Robert, Louis Waymouth as Simon Finch, and Waldo voiced by Daniel Rigby, in

The episodes of Black Mirror vary in tone from horrific to comic, but most share certain themes: advanced technologies run horribly amuck, our culture’s obsessive love affair with electronics, and the exploitation of conflict, suffering, and embarrassment as a source of mass entertainment. Watching Black Mirror at bedtime is, I’ve discovered, unwise.


‘The Brink’

Offhandedly mocking our inadequate, improvisatory foreign policy in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, The Brink is funny, inventive, and fearless in what it has to say about geopolitics.