Gideon Lewis-Kraus is the author of A Sense of 
Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful. He was the coeditor, with Arnold Eisen, of Philip Rieff’s Sacred Order/Social Order III. (January 2015)


A Very Quiet Triumph

Colm Tóibín, New York City, 2014

Nora Webster

by Colm Tóibín
Colm Tóibín’s Nora Webster has been billed as a kind of companion volume to his last novel, Brooklyn. Both are stories of women raised at midcentury in small-town Ireland, where they were not expected to have, much less act upon, desires of their own. Brooklyn’s young Eilis Lacey goes dutifully …

Dragooned into Solidarity

Lagos, 2013; photograph by Teju Cole

Every Day Is for the Thief

by Teju Cole
In a recent interview with The New York Times Book Review, the young Nigerian writer Teju Cole said that “‘the novel’ is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it.” Cole himself may be, like the writers he most admires, not “really a novelist,” though …

Philip Roth: ‘The Full Arc’?

Philip Roth at the Yaddo artists’ retreat, December 1968

Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books

by Claudia Roth Pierpont
The work of Philip Roth, if we are to believe him, has been completed. He has retired from the business of novel-writing; there will be no more alter egos, no more splitting or doubling. As Dr. Spielvogel, in the punch line to Portnoy’s Complaint, asks: “Now vee may perhaps to …


Janet Malcolm’s Cut‑Up Books

The summer that we did not prize, 2013, Paper collage, 9 x 26 inches

Both Janet Malcolm’s writing and her collages are preoccupied with what happens on the margins of knowing, or in its wake. Malcolm has always had great confidence in what she’s come to know—she writes with such a sure hand—yet at the same time she is well aware of the limits of what we might ever feel assured in saying. In “A House of One’s Own,” her essay on Bloomsbury, she writes that “we have to face the problem that every biographer faces and none can solve; namely that he is standing in quicksand as he writes. There is no floor under his enterprise, no basis for moral certainty.” The abyss is there and she nods at it and goes about her business.