Ruth Franklin’s most recent book, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, won the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography. (March 2020)


L’Engle’s Cosmic Catechism

The Kairos Novels: The Wrinkle in Time and Polly O’Keefe Quartets

by Madeleine L’Engle, edited by Leonard S. Marcus

Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places

by Madeleine L’Engle, with a foreword by Charlotte Jones Voiklis
The author of A Wrinkle in Time appears to have been fighting a battle that was to her just as dire as the struggle between good and evil she so obsessively depicts: the struggle for her own soul.

Ladies of the Moon

Jokha Alharthi, London, May 2019

Celestial Bodies

by Jokha Alharthi, translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth
In an engrossing book published last spring called Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative, the Australian writer Jane Alison makes a trenchant observation about the “dramatic arc” long considered the foundation for plot. Swelling to a climax and then deflating, it resembles nothing so much as a phallus: …

Everyday Sadism

Kristen Roupenian, Ann Arbor, Michigan, January 2019

You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” and Other Stories

by Kristen Roupenian
It has happened only twice in nearly seventy years: a short story appears in The New Yorker and goes viral, setting off an avalanche of responses. Some readers, fooled by its up-to-date style, misinterpret it as a piece of reportage. Others attack the author as a sadist or a misanthrope.

The Decisive Moment

Joan Silber


by Joan Silber
“Never again will a single story be told as though it were the only one,” John Berger wrote in his novel G. (1972). In the decades that have followed, that line has become a rallying cry for contemporary novelists, including Michael Ondaatje, Arundhati Roy, and, most famously, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

‘Just Make Sure You Don’t Forget’

Phillip Lopate’s mother, Frances Lopate, in a portrait made by a photographer who worked for Lincoln Studios, Newark, New Jersey, 1939

A Mother’s Tale

by Phillip Lopate
“Usually I try to get patients to confront their families, but in your case I would recommend putting several thousand miles between you and them,” a therapist told Phillip Lopate in 1980. Along with his older brother and their two younger sisters, Lopate had spent his childhood in Brooklyn as …

A Deep American Horror Exposed

A Book of American Martyrs

by Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates is sometimes spoken of as a novelist of sensationalism, her Gothic and morbid tendencies emphasized. In fact, her new book, A Book of American Martyrs, is a deeply political novel, all the more powerful for its many ambiguities.

Forced into a Double Life

Roger Cohen, New York City, 2009

The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family

by Roger Cohen
In The Girl from Human Street, Roger Cohen, a New York Times columnist whose previous books have investigated the stories of American POWs under the Nazis and the fate of four families in the former Yugoslavia, seeks to excavate the forces, both historical and personal, that shaped his own family.

The Beauty of a Hermetic, Corrupt World

The Dutch trading settlement on the artificial island of Dejima, Nagasaki Bay, Japan, 1804

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

by David Mitchell
One of the characters in Ghostwritten, David Mitchell’s first novel, is a “noncorpum”: a disembodied spirit that travels the earth as a parasite on its human hosts. Restlessly seeking a clue to its own origin, it scours their consciousnesses, assimilates their knowledge and experiences as its own, and then transmigrates …