Diane Johnson is a novelist and critic. She is the author of Lulu in Marrakech and Le Divorce, among other novels, and a memoir, 
Flyover Lives. (November 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

On the Election—III

Donald Trump at the first presidential debate, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016
This year’s election is not about economics. The paramount question is whether a person exhibiting no qualification for the office—neither experience, nor preparation, nor personal character—is nonetheless to become president. Yet economics is at the heart of the matter.

Girls Just Want to Be Potent

Emma Cline, Sonoma, California, June 2016

The Girls

by Emma Cline
Emma Cline’s best-selling historical novel The Girls is set in 1969, when a group of followers of the hippie Svengali Charles Manson, mostly young women, invaded the home of Sharon Tate, the actress wife of film director Roman Polanski. No one will have forgotten the massacre of the pregnant Tate …

Crazy in Korea

Han Kang, Gwacheon, South Korea, January 2016

The Vegetarian

by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith
This year the prestigious English Man Booker International Prize was given to the Korean writer Han Kang for The Vegetarian, a short, absorbing novel that readers and reviewers have declared to be about—besides meat-eating—marriage, obedience, care- giving, adultery, art, human violence, post-human fantasy, taboos, the resolution of the desperate, “the …

The Quest for Gay Pleasure

Edmund White, New York City, February 1983

Our Young Man

by Edmund White
In his 2004 essay “Writing Gay,” Edmund White tells how his father, coming to see one of his plays, asks him beforehand, “‘What is it about—the usual?’ which was his way of referring to a gay theme.” His new novel, Our Young Man, is about “the usual,” from an Edmund …

Very Big in LA

Jack Warner with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, stars of the Warner Brothers film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, circa 1962

West of Eden: An American Place

by Jean Stein
Jean Stein’s West of Eden is an oral history about Los Angeles, shaped from interviews collected over a period of thirty years. It focuses on five influential civic founders and major figures in the early cinema, beginning in the 1930s with the Dohenys, one of the great LA fortunes, now …

What Do These People Want?

Jonathan Franzen, 2002

Purity

by Jonathan Franzen
Admirers of Jonathan Franzen’s witty, brilliantly observed novels of contemporary American family life—The Corrections and Freedom—will find that his new novel, Purity, departs from his previous allegiance to comic realism; it’s a complex narrative of fates intertwined and twinned, international crimes, dark secrets, a whirl of events unfolding at fairy-tale …

Daddy’s Girl

Harper Lee with Mary Badham, who played Scout in the 1962 film of To Kill a Mockingbird

Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee
Since its publication in 1960, Harper Lee’s best-selling To Kill a Mockingbird has been described as America’s favorite book. It is required reading in many high schools and junior high schools and in schools in some foreign countries, and continues to sell more than a million copies a year. In …

Self-Reliance

Rachel Cusk, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, August 2014

Outline

by Rachel Cusk
Rachel Cusk’s new novel, Outline, has been praised as a fresh direction, perhaps an artistic advance from her previous work. Her earlier novels are well written, conventional, and self- revealing; and Outline is well written, arty, and reticent. She has written seven novels before it, receiving a Whitbread Prize for …