Phillip Lopate’s most recent book is Portrait Inside My Head, a collection of essays. He is the Director of the nonfiction writing ­program at Columbia. (November 2016)


The Umpire of the Quality Lit Game

The Novel: A Survival Skill

by Tim Parks

Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books

by Tim Parks
Author of fifteen novels, nine books of nonfiction, and countless articles and translations, the prodigious Tim Parks is what used to be called a man of letters. He coolly sums up his multivalent reputation: I am known in England mainly for light, though hopefully thoughtful nonfiction; in Italy for polemical …

The Kids Against Mum

Drawing by Edward Gorey

They May Not Mean To, But They Do

by Cathleen Schine
Over the past thirty-three years, Cathleen Schine has been one of our most realistically imaginative, dependably readable novelists. Starting with Alice in Bed (1983), her ten books comprise a sly, illuminating corpus that seems more related to the English comic novel than to most contemporary American fiction. Her work is …

Innocents Abroad

Mischa Berlinski, 2012


by Mischa Berlinski
The idealistic impulse of Americans who go abroad to study other cultures or improve the lot of others more desperate than themselves makes a ripe subject for ironic fiction. Today’s expatriates who work for charitable organizations are the descendants of Henry James’s Continental travelers who sought to acquire the Old …

In the Kingdom of Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates with her father, Frederic Oates, 1943

The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age

by Joyce Carol Oates

The Sacrifice

by Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates has published three books this year—a memoir, a serious novel, and a thriller. In fact, she has written so many books in so many genres that it is entirely possible to hold opposing views of her, as both underrated and overrated, depending on the sampling of her …

The Shadows Know

Jerome Charyn, New York City, late 1970s

Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories

by Jerome Charyn
In his long, exceptionally prolific career, encompassing over fifty titles in fifty years, Jerome Charyn has attracted the warm respect of critics and fellow writers, if not a mass public following. Walking a tightrope between high literary sophistication and pop culture (his first two loves were comic books and movies), …

The King of the Insomniacs

Charles Simic, New York City, May 1996

The Lunatic

by Charles Simic

The Life of Images: Selected Prose

by Charles Simic
Charles Simic is one of our most celebrated living poets. He has won a Pulitzer, a MacArthur Fellowship, the Wallace Stevens award, the Frost Medal, the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award, and served as the US poet laureate. What’s striking is that his distinctive poetic style continues to feel modest, …

‘Life Is an Ecstasy’

Edward Hoagland, Bennington, Vermont, 2001

Sex and the River Styx

by Edward Hoagland
There is probably no essayist today who has earned more respect from his peers and fellow practitioners than Edward Hoagland. John Updike called him “the best essayist of my generation,” Philip Roth said he was “America’s most intelligent and wide-ranging essayist-naturalist,” and Joyce Carol Oates described him evocatively as “our …