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.
 (October 2017)

IN THE REVIEW

Frail, Funny, and Prescient About Our Mess

Beryl Bainbridge at her house in Camden Town, London, 1989

Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means: A Biography

by Brendan King
When the English writer Beryl Bainbridge died in 2010, The Guardian obituary began by noting that she was considered “one of the best novelists of her generation,” but the piece went on to say: No one was sure quite who the real Beryl Bainbridge was. Her life appeared rackety, her …

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 …

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