Wyatt Mason is a contributing editor of Harper’s and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. He is Senior Fellow of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard. He translated Pierre Michon’s Masters and Servants and The Origin of the World. (February 2014)

Make This Not True

George Saunders, Oneonta, New York, November 2012
Damon Winter/The New York Times/ReduxGeorge Saunders, Oneonta, New York, November 2012 Late in Jonathan Franzen’s recent, fourth novel, Freedom, Patty Berglund, six years estranged from her husband Walter after her affair with Walter’s best friend, takes an unusual path to reconciliation. On a wintry October night, Patty arrives unannounced …

Smarter than You Think

David Foster Wallace, Syracuse, New York, 1995
More than any writer in his generation, David Foster Wallace dedicated himself to the question of how to make what he called “morally passionate, passionately moral fiction” that was also “ingenious and radiantly human.” That dedication may be seen in the boldness of his answers, the dozens of daring formal solutions that sought new and—for those with the patience to take them on their terms—revelatory ways of reframing the question with which fiction is always preoccupied: how to be in the world.

Groping in the Digital Dark

A young Jean-Yves in Michel Gondry’s Thorn of the Heart

In early September of 1909, while on vacation in northern Italy, Franz Kafka attended an airshow in Brescia. It was the first time he had seen airplanes in flight. In an essay, “The Aeroplanes at Brescia,” he calls them “the machines.” When Louis Blériot—who had just become the first human to fly across the English Channel—takes his machine up into the Italian air, Kafka reports that, “Everyone gazes up at him enraptured, in no one’s heart is there room for anyone else.” Because this is, after all, Kafka, let’s call this the “Parable of the Machine”: as it enraptures, technology leaves us more alone.

I have been thinking of this parable in relation to the pace at which the film industry is loosing 3-D movies upon us.

Uncovering Céline

Louis-Ferdinand Céline with his dogs, Meudon, France, circa 1955
Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet/Getty ImagesLouis-Ferdinand Céline with his dogs, Meudon, France, circa 1955 1. Louis-Ferdinand Destouches met Cillie Pam in Paris, at the Café de la Paix, in September 1932. Destouches was a physician who worked at a public clinic in Clichy treating poor and working-class patients; Pam was a …

The Color Money

An Englishman in Barbados selling his mistress into slavery; eighteenth-century engraving
Granger CollectionAn Englishman in Barbados selling his mistress into slavery; eighteenth-century engraving Early in Toni Morrison’s new, brief, ninth novel, A Mercy, a woman tells a story: One day…an eagle laid her eggs in a nest far above and far beyond the snakes and paws that hunted …