Joyce Carol Oates is the author, most recently, of Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life, much of which originally appeared in these pages. She is Distinguished Writer in Residence in the Graduate Program at New York University. (October 2016)
Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: A Graphic Adaptation
by Miles Hyman
Characterized by the caprice and fatalism of fairy tales, the fiction of Shirley Jackson exerts a mordant, hypnotic spell. No matter how many times one has read “The Lottery,” Jackson’s most anthologized story and one of the classic works of American gothic literature, one is never quite prepared for its slow-gathering momentum, the way in which what appears initially to be random and casual is revealed to be as inevitable as water circling a drain.
by Lucia Berlin, edited and with an introduction by Stephen Emerson, and with a foreword by Lydia Davis
What I hope to do is, by the use of intricate detail, to make this woman so believable you can’t help but feel for her. —Lucia Berlin, “Point of View” In “Point of View,” Lucia Berlin’s most complexly imagined short story, a female writer confides in us, her readers, her …
We are uneasy about a story until we know who is telling it. —Joan Didion, A Book of Common Prayer It is rare to find a biographer so temperamentally, intellectually, and even stylistically matched with his subject as Tracy Daugherty, author of well-received biographies of Donald Barthelme and Joseph Heller, …
This is not a traditional lecture so much as the quest for a lecture in the singular—a quest constructed around a sequence of questions: Why do we write? What is the motive for metaphor? “Where do you get your ideas?” Do we choose our subjects, or do our subjects choose us? Do we choose our “voices”? Is inspiration a singular phenomenon, or does it take taxonomical forms? Indeed, is the uninspired life worth living?
Kazuo Ishiguro’s enigmatic new novel, The Buried Giant, is a coolly orchestrated text in which ideas about human nature, human memory, and the vicissitudes of a war-tormented history constitute the essential drama; it is not a book essentially about the experiences of hapless Briton and Saxon characters as they are moved about the landscape like chess pieces in a game beyond their comprehension.
“And this, also, has been one of the dark places of the earth.” This mordant pronouncement of the seagoing storyteller Marlow, uttered at the outset of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, seems to reverberate through Zia Haider Rahman’s remarkable postcolonial novel In the Light of What We Know. It is …
The Fighter might more accurately have been titled The Fighter and His Family: it’s a boisterous, brilliantly orchestrated ensemble piece at the paradoxically near-still center of which is an Irish-American boxer (Mark Wahlberg), whose once-promising career, like his grim hometown, Lowell, Massachusetts, is on what appears to be an inevitable downward spiral. Just nominated for seven Academy Awards—including best picture and Christian Bale as supporting actor, the current favorite in that category—the film is based on the life and career of former junior welterweight champion Micky Ward, most famous for his three brutally hard-fought bouts with Arturo Gatti in 2002–2003. It is also a group portrait of working-class Irish-Americans in a blighted, postindustrial landscape: the brawling, clannish, emotionally combustible Ward-Eklund family for whom Micky is the great hope and from whom, if he wants to survive, let alone prevail as a boxer of ambition, he must separate himself.
Wildly inventive and imaginative, with an outstanding performance by Lily Rabe as Rosalind, and original bluegrass music by Steve Martin, the Public Theater’s production of As You Like It would be at the top of anyone’s summer theater list.