Patricia Storace is the author of Heredity, a book of poems, Dinner with Persephone, a travel memoir about Greece, and Sugar Cane, a children’s book. Her new novel, A Book of Heaven, was published in February 2014. She lives in New York.

Seduced by the Food on Your Plate

Boris Kustodiev: <i>The Merchant’s Wife’s Tea</i>, 1918
Dr. Johnson famously suggested that a man not preoccupied with the excellence of his dinner “should be suspected of inaccuracy in other things.” If he had made that remark today, it would probably be published with a mosaic of reminiscences and images of suppers he’d had at his pub, the Cheshire Cheese, and a link to the food vocabulary in his online dictionary.

Queens of the Night

Set design by Leon Bakst for the Ballets Russes production of <i>Scheherazade</i>, circa 1910
On June 24, 1911, the fashion designer Paul Poiret held a much-anticipated costume party in Paris, which he promised would “be the Thousand and Second Night.” The guests, who had received invitations designed by Raoul Dufy, were led past a huge golden cage, in which Madame Poiret was imprisoned, along …

‘A Woman Running from the News’

David Grossman protesting in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in support of evicted Palestinian families, September 2010
There is a striking difference in register between the titles of the Hebrew and the English versions of David Grossman’s lengthy, ambitious novel. The portentous literary title in English, “To the End of the Land,” stakes an epic claim; it has the grandiloquence that reminds one of titles like Gone with the Wind or From Here to Eternity. By contrast, the simplicity of its Hebrew title—“A Woman Running from the News”—announces another novel altogether, a realist novel of contemporary life, the story of a particular person at a particular moment.

The Book of Heaven

The world was created with a knife and a prayer. The knife you can see well, especially in the late summer nights. Look up after dark; you will see its green jade hilt, the sickle of brilliants that forms the curve of the scimitar’s blade, and the field of red …

Barbara Epstein (1928–2006)

Barbara Epstein, my friend and fellow editor for forty-three years, died on June 16. She did much to create The New York Review and she brought her remarkable intelligence and editorial skill to bear on everything that appeared in these pages. We publish here memoirs by some of the writers …

Pagan Litany

Unknown gods we drove away, we invoke you. You who are not named, but are not nameless, Pardon our arrogance. Return to us. Let the myriad altars we destroyed surge up again, Ocean of gods, and lave the world with generous prayer, …

A Double Life in Black and White

The two volumes of Persepolis, the implacably witty and fearless “graphic memoir” of the Iranian illustrator Marjane Satrapi, relate through an inseparable fusion of cartoon images and verbal narrative the story of a privileged young girl’s childhood experience of Iran’s revolution of 1979, its eight-year war with Iraq, her exile …

The Poet of Karma

There are actors and actresses who shape themselves as great images, and others who shape themselves as great interpreters. Elizabeth Taylor is of the first type, as was Clark Gable; they are the camera’s lovers, they require the camera’s recording of even her tantrums or his sleazy trickeries as a …

The Scripture of Utopia

In 1880, the United States Senate published a three-volume report of the findings of its select committee on black migration from the South, the Report and Testimony of the Select Committee of the United States Senate to Investigate the Causes of the Removal of the Negroes from the Southern States …

Marble Girls of Athens

Arkhe tou paramythiou, kalispera sas, is a traditional beginning of a Greek fairy tale. The fairy tale begins, good evening to you. I lived in Athens, at the intersection of a prostitute and a saint. It was a neighborhood of mixed high-rises and a scattering of neoclassical houses, some boarded …

Casablanca Villanelle

The fundamental things apply— even in Casablanca, what kiss is just a kiss? Play it Sam; Play As Time Goes By. Track that kiss like a sharp private eye through the streets of the Casbah to its real address; The fundamental things apply.

Hilarion to Echo

(Alexandria, First Century) Heartiest greetings to my wife, Echo, and to Apollonius and Philip also. We are all still here in Alexandria, although at my urging, we changed our rooms, and moved nearer to the port, which seemed more convenient to me. I sold …

In the Promised Land

Fima, short for Efraim, Nisan, the hero of Amos Oz’s new novel, is a present-day native of 1989 Jerusalem, a city where men (if not women), at least in the world of the book, are all “half prophet, half prime minister.” With more gift for rhetoric than for attentiveness, Fima …

Look Away, Dixie Land

“Oakland cemetery hasn’t changed much in the hundred and thirty-odd years it has sheltered Atlanta’s favored dead,” writes the contemporary Atlanta novelist, Anne Rivers Siddons, in her novel Peachtree Road. “Our crowd has always been in and out of Oakland almost as frequently and as easily as we enter and …

Seeing Double

Typical American, Gish Jen’s poised, unsentimental novel about a Chinese immigrant’s life in the United States, is as preoccupied with the notion of pairs, doubles, and the interplay of possibility and limitation as the famous Chinese book of divination, the I Ching, or Book of Changes. Even the typical American …

Betrayals

Death is the unspoken hero in this pair of novels, one with its terse, masculine title, the other festively evoking Jane Austen. Diane Johnson’s book is, surprisingly, a comedy about death, how death rules social life, a comedy incongruously set in a hospital. Peter Matthiessen’s novel is about murder, and …

A Home Is Not A House

One hundred and six years ago, Huck Finn lit out for the Western territory to escape domestic life. The high proportion of American novels about family life published in recent years would almost suggest that there is now no place for him to go. An ordinary English family might have …

The Art of M. F. K. Fisher

In 1937 Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher published Serve It Forth, the first of her unclassifiable works on the art of eating, blends of autobiography, culinary history, parable, and cookbook. Serve It Forth, as she tells us in her most recent book of essays, Dubious Honors, was deliberately written and accidentally …

Movie

Not quite sleep, but nearly all we want of it— These dreams framed in the metal of what’s real, a silence perfected by voices, the smoky erotic twilight when the houselights dim and the world emerges en négligé and as it moves toward us, through gauzy …

Southern Hospitality

Two feet, matched white plumes, rest on the jewel case velvet of a footstool; like the decor, dress, and ice cream you preferred, your desserts and furnishings were rose-colored. While the downtown stores held moving sales, reincarnating in suburbs with utopian names, you in …

Runners

Listen: the keychains of the constellations are rattling the stars; Morning’s coming back, morning’s coming home, and fanned-out erstwhile landowners, sleeping in flats like decks of cards at the signal abandon their deepest dreams; unraveling the ribbons of the present, they slide onto terraces, …

Illegitimacy

I. An hour or two in bed—my family history. I am caught in your act—like those cameras planted in hotel rooms to catch politicians at illicit sex, I am the evidence of your kisses, the proof of acts best unrecorded, the reel of film …