Adam Thirlwell’s latest novel is Lurid and Cute. (August 2020)


A Horse’s Remorse

A scene from ‘The Face of Depression,’ an episode in season 6 of BoJack Horseman, 2019

BoJack Horseman

an animated Netflix series created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and art-directed by Lisa Hanawalt
At first it was simply zany and delightful, this series about a talking horse who’s the washed-up star of a now-forgotten 1990s hit sitcom. But by the time BoJack Horseman finished, it had become something much grander and more terrible. Exactly what, however, and exactly how, are conundrums that have preoccupied me.

Lunches in the Maelstrom

Ernst Jünger (on horseback) with German troops, Paris, 1941

A German Officer in Occupied Paris: The War Journals, 1941–1945

by Ernst Jünger, translated from the German by Thomas S. Hansen and Abby J. Hansen, and with a foreword by Elliot Y. Neaman
Some writers become imbued with the charisma of a history, well beyond the charisma of their writing, and one of these is Ernst Jünger. This was partly because he lived through the entire experiment in historical mayhem produced by the European twentieth century—he was born in Heidelberg in 1895 and …

An Explosion of Pure Fact

George Grosz: Metropolis, 1917

Berlin Alexanderplatz

by Alfred Döblin, translated from the German and with an afterword by Michael Hofmann
Berlin Alexanderplatz was published in Germany in 1929. It was a novel bearing the name of a giant train station, and its immediate notoriety was due to its aura of metropolitan switchback and speed. No one, it seemed, had reproduced the wild cancan of a city with such meticulously wild techniques. In the nickelodeon theaters, audiences went to watch a quick-change succession of shorts—and now here, so argued its admirers, was the nickelodeon’s novelistic equivalent. Its author, Alfred Döblin, the son of a Jewish tailor from Stettin who practiced as a doctor, was a star of the Expressionist movement. His schtick was garish prose, tonal dissonance, and outlandish subjects: psychosis, suicide, lesbian murderers, anarchist revolution in eighteenth-century China. With Berlin Alexanderplatz, Döblin used his garish effects on his own drab neighborhood, the working-class environs of Alexanderplatz, and in the process created his most famous and influential work.

Imaginary Conspiracies

Ricardo Piglia, circa 2008

The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: Formative Years

by Ricardo Piglia, translated from the Spanish by Robert Croll, with an introduction by Ilan Stavans
In the long history of novelists and their doubles, doppelgängers, and alter egos, few have given more delighted attention to the problem of multiplicity than the Argentine novelist Ricardo Emilio Piglia Renzi. He was born in 1940 and died last year in Buenos Aires. Under the name of Ricardo Piglia …


Romania: On the Border of the Real

The image of an interior shattered by outside forces could be the emblem for all Cristian Mungiu’s films. He loves to present stories in which someone’s integrity is assailed by external influences, and Graduation offers one of his most melancholy contraptions for testing his characters’ limitations.

Raúl Ruiz: From One World to the Next

Still from Raúl Ruiz's City of Pirates, 1938

Raúl Ruiz’s career can be understood as a sustained resistance, a manic guerrilla operation, against two forms of power: the violence of Pinochet’s dictatorship, and the control on conventional movie-making exerted by Hollywood. He is the exile director: a Latin American who made most of his movies in English, French, or Portuguese—and whose aesthetic inhabits an absolute alien territory.

Unserious Austen

Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon and Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin in Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship, 2016

Trying to examine Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, our definitions like adaptation or rewrite become faintly anachronistic, or clumsy. Stillman’s cinematic innovation has been to bathe cinema in a literary tone, a charmed artificiality. Now he has made an adaptation of Lady Susan—an early Jane Austen novella, unpublished until after her death.

A Thousand Movies in One

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes in “The Enchanted One,” the third part of Arabian Nights, 2015

Director Miguel Gomes has always enjoyed combining two separate elements in a single film, and in Arabian Nights this technique is cosmically expanded. The dream is of pure lightness (a film as fantasia) and simultaneously of pure weight (a film as witness). Or, to put this another way: How do you take political and aesthetic risks in a film’s form while dramatizing them within that film as well?