Lorin Stein is Editor of The Paris Review. (December 2011)

‘The White Machine of Life’

Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross, 1435–1438
Can a novel of contemporary life be both truthful and dramatic? Does it make sense to think of our lives as containing love stories, adventures, characters who “develop”? Or is it wrongheaded—is it embarrassing—to look for drama in the act of being oneself? These questions haunt Ben Lerner’s first novel, …

Histoire de V.

Mary Gaitskill was born in 1954 and raised in the suburbs of Detroit. At fifteen she ran away from home, supporting herself in Toronto and the Bay Area as a street vendor, office clerk, and stripper. After returning to her family, she enrolled in a community college, then the University …

Loves of the Lambs

In 1820 the editor of The London Magazine, John Scott, approached a forty-five-year-old accountant named Charles Lamb with the idea of writing a series of essays about his daily life. Where Scott got the idea is unknown, but he is said to have offered Lamb two or three times what …

Escape from History

Aleksandar Hemon was born in 1964 in Sarajevo to parents of Ukrainian and Bosnian Serb descent. Apart from a brief, mandatory stint in the Yugoslav army, he spent his childhood and youth in that city. At the University of Sarajevo he studied literature and played in a band. Later he …