In Lake Success, his new novel, Gary Shteyngart has shifted to recognizably American soil, specifically the United States that rolls beneath the wheels of a Greyhound bus. Barry Cohen is a hedge-fund manager who escapes his obscenely wealthy New York life by running off on a red-state road trip. It is just before the 2016 presidential election. And because of the timing, the geography of the South and the West, the political references, and the poor and middle-class people Barry meets on his travels, Lake Success presents itself as a book about America. But Barry is just a tourist in America. Lake Success is really a New York story, and a good one.
Paul Goldberg pokes at the politics of the United States with the stick of Russian cynicism, and simultaneously listens at the keyhole of Russian cynicism with the ear of an Americanized cynic. The Château is the perfect summer beach book for those of us too agonized by the world as it is to escape into a summer beach book. He has given us the luxurious pleasure of relaxing into the belly of the beast.
Many years ago at a literary conference in Key West that focused on humor, I heard Billy Collins speak. Comedy, he said, is the dog that leaves the room when you call its name. Collins’s wistful, loving resignation over the elusive nature of comedy has distinguished antecedents. The list of …
Roxane Gay is a writer of extreme empathy. Her fiction and essays elicit as much shared understanding as they give. Her new memoir, Hunger, is the story of being a physical woman in a physical world that has been shaped for so long by men. And I suspect that every woman who reads Hunger will recognize herself in it. For men who read the book, it will be more of a travelogue. Vade mecum.
Elif Batuman has generously bestowed her wit and intelligence and insight on journalism, and now, even more generously, on fiction. The Possessed, her 2010 collection of essays subtitled Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, is unforgettable, perhaps because it is so unpredictable. Part memoir, part literary …
The rooms that hold the Museum of Natural History’s famous dioramas are vast and dimly lit. What happens in the darkness of the museum itself is quite different from the stillness of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s new book, Dioramas, a collection of his elegant black and white photographs of dioramas.
Last Christmas, I gave my mother a copy of The Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman. Like many other adult Maira Kalmanites, I had discovered the book when it ran as an illustrated blog on The New York Times web site. My mother and I have similar taste in books so I thought she would love it. But a few days later, she called me, quite agitated, irate even, saying “What is this bizarre book you gave me? The letters go all over the page. It’s like a children’s book. What on earth gave you the idea I would want to read this?” An hour later, she called back. “Just forget what I said. I just had to get used to it. What a wonderful book!”
I met a friend for lunch the other day at The Morgan Library. In honor of their Jane Austen exhibit, they are serving a Regency lunch. Whenever I hear the word Regency, I think not of Jane Austen, but of Dickens’s Old Mr. Turveydrop, celebrated everywhere for his Deportment, who named his son Prince. I don’t know if Old Mr. Turveydrop would have approved, but we thought it was a delicious Regency lunch—Poached Atlantic Salmon, Fricassee of Macomber Turnips & Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Baked Apple Cobbler—though what exactly about the menu qualified as Regency is somewhat obscure. The turnips? I have never eaten more delicious turnips. I happily imagined Jane Austen eating delicate, sweet Macomber turnips, too. But at home, after a little on-line research, I came to realize how unlikely it is that she did—Macomber turnips seem to be a cross breed of radishes and rutabagas developed by the two Macomber brothers in Westport, Massachussetts in 1876.
Musica Angelica, the wonderful Baroque ensemble for which traffic-averse early music lovers on the west side of Los Angeles are eternally grateful because they are so good and because they are not downtown, is performing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.