John Leonard writes on books every month for Harper’s and on television every week for New York magazine. (June 2007)


Meshuga Alaska

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

by Michael Chabon
The magician seemed to promise that something torn to bits might be mended without a seam, that what had vanished might reappear, that a scattered handful of doves or dust might be reunited by a word, that a paper rose consumed by fire could be made to bloom from a …

A Feast of Shadows

Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties

by Robert Stone
When I decide what happened, I’ll decide to live with it. —Robert Stone, A Flag for Sunrise We are more than halfway through Prime Green before Robert Stone finally explains the title of his lyrical, witty, evasive, protective, unrepentant, and exasperating memoir. The year is 1966. A twenty-nine-year-old Stone, …

The Adventures of Doris Lessing

Time Bites: Views and Reviews

by Doris Lessing

The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog

by Doris Lessing
Imagine the novelist as Artemis, Doris as Diana: by age twelve, she already knew how to raise rabbits, worm dogs, churn butter, make cream cheese and ginger beer, shoot guinea fowl, and walk on stilts. Not that she wasn’t also reading—Dickens and Lewis Carroll. When at last she left the unhappy homestead where her mother loved her brother best, for the dance hall, typing pool, and Left Book Club in Salisbury, Rhodesia’s capital, she added Lawrence, Proust, and Virginia Woolf to Kipling and Olive Schreiner. She also switched from The Observer to The New Statesman.

In the Desert, Prime Time

The Diviners

by Rick Moody
Before it raptures up and wimps out, Moody’s most recent novel, The Diviners, is not only longer and funnier than his previous three but also more accommodating. While he may still rev his motor too much, he is thinking out loud about larger matters than the substance abuse, sexual dysfunction, …

The Black Album

The Year of Magical Thinking

by Joan Didion
“The most terrifying verse I know: merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream.” —Joan Didion, The Last Thing He Wanted Three times the mother had to repeat herself, telling the daughter her father was dead. The daughter, Quintana Roo, kept forgetting because she was in and out of comas, …

Welcome to New Dork

Men and Cartoons

by Jonathan Lethem

The Disappointment Artist

by Jonathan Lethem
In The Fortress of Solitude, his great white whale of a novel, Jonathan Lethem chases after childhood, neighborhood, and the American leviathan of race relations. In Men and Cartoons, a grab bag of his stories, he paddles a kayak downstream over waters not exactly rapid. Old friends from elementary school …

The Prophet

Sweet Land Stories

by E.L. Doctorow

Reporting the Universe

by E.L. Doctorow
If you have ever seen E.L. Doctorow, on stage, in a restaurant, or even across a crowded room, you know that he’s a mild-mannered Clark Kent kind of guy, more likely to be registering a voter or building a harpsichord than rousing a rabble or leading a charge.

Don Quixote at Eighty

The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing

by Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer at age eighty, with an anthology of scars, tickles, slaps, and winks for would-be writers and weary readers—not Aquarius but Gerontion, an old man in a drafty house under a windy knob… Perhaps 7 percent of The Spooky Art is previously unpublished, although it’s hard to tell for …