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. (August 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

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 …

Who Is Not Guilty of This Vice?

Ségolène Royal, François Hollande, and Valérie Trierweiler just after Hollande’s presidential election victory was announced, Paris, May 2012

Jealousy

by Peter Toohey

Thank You for This Moment: A Story of Love, Power, and Betrayal

by Valérie Trierweiler, translated from the French by Clémence Sebag
Love makes the world go round, says the poet, while the cynic says it’s money; and Peter Toohey constructs an entertaining argument for jealousy being the wellspring of a much greater part of our emotional lives, and of a larger proportion of literature, law, and daily existence, than we may have thought.

Let’s Go to Dystopia

Max Ernst: The Entire City, 1935–1936

On Such a Full Sea

by Chang-rae Lee
Dystopian novels portray a society, usually of the future, that has arrived at the destination we’re all headed for if we don’t change now.

They’ll Make You a Writer!

A writers’ workshop on the lawn in front of the Old Capitol building at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1940s

The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing

by Mark McGurl
This past summer, as every summer, well-known writers were teaching in creative writing seminars, workshops, conferences, and residential programs, and hundreds of people attended, at Bread Loaf and Sewanee, Sun Valley and Squaw Valley, and dozens of other places. This fall, thousands more students will be enrolled in long-term writing …