Lorrie Moore is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt and the author of four story collections and three novels. Her most recent book is a collection of essays, See What Can Be Done. (August 2018)


The Queen of Rue

Rachel Cusk


by Rachel Cusk
In introductory studio art classes students are often assigned a negative-space drawing—that is, they are asked to draw everything surrounding a figure, filling up the page, until the blank shape of the figure emerges. This has been Rachel Cusk’s technique in her last trio of novels—a trio referred to appropriately as the Outline trilogy—and it is a little puzzling that more people haven’t thought to write novels in this manner before.

Ain’t It Always Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills performing on the Dutch television program Toppop, 1972

Stephen Stills: Change Partners

by David Roberts
Stills may be hobbled by arthritis—backstage he bumps fists rather than shakes hands with fans; he has carpal tunnel and residual pain from a long-ago broken hand, which affects his playing—and he is nearly deaf, but his performance life has continued. Drugs and alcohol may have dented him somewhat, forming a kind of carapace over the youthful sensitivity and cockiness one often saw in the face of the young Stills. Some might infer by looking at the spry James Taylor or Mick Jagger that heroin is less hard on the body than cocaine and booze, which perhaps tear down the infrastructure. (“Stills doesn’t know how to do drugs properly,” Keith Richards once said.) But one has to hand it to a rock veteran who still wants to get on stage and make music even when his youthful beauty and once-tender, husky baritone have dimmed. It shows allegiance to the craft, to the life, to the music. It risks a derisive sort of criticism as well as an assault on nostalgia.

The Case of O.J. Simpson

O.J.: Made in America

a five-part ESPN documentary directed by Ezra Edelman
Martin Luther King and others have said that Sunday in America is the most segregated day of the week, but the O.J. Simpson verdict, acquittal on all charges, came in on a Tuesday. The jury, after having been sequestered for the better part of a year, took only three hours to deliberate. It knew enough and now wanted to go home.

A Very Singular Girl

Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown

by Gerri Hirshey

Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman

by Brooke Hauser
Somewhere back in the day Helen Gurley Brown said that after a certain age the only thing a woman could rely on to improve her appearance was good posture and expensive jewelry. At least that is my recollection, though I no longer recall the exact source or context. The gender specificity, the whiff of doom in the goal, the daft simplicity, the conciseness, the candor, and the plausibility caused it to stick in my head (although my most recent earrings were bought for three dollars from a street vendor).


The Balletic Millennial Bedtimes of ‘Normal People’

Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), Normal People, 2020

The generations have always sized up one another in broad categorical descriptors. Though much current media attention is given to the millennial disdain for their elders (e.g., “OK, Boomer”), what millennials seem like to baby boomers (who are sometimes their parents) is often discussed more quietly. To generalize sweepingly, and in a way that is not contradicted by Rooney’s work, some of the mutterings—I am only reporting—include the following: millennials seem wedded to ideas of status and conventional success, but they want to “infiltrate” plutocratic institutions as “Marxists” and prized guests; they will deride yet exploit all privilege; raised to be competitive, they find envy is not a form of hate but a legitimate aspect of success-culture and an expression of congratulations.

Which Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Corruption seems to surround Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who faces Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in Tuesday’s recall election. Walker has a criminal defense fund already in place and rumors of indictments are in the air, regarding both his time as Milwaukee County Executive and his current use of state moneys. But many people in self-contradictory Wisconsin, the home of both the Progressive Party and of Joe McCarthy, may not care very deeply about the charges against Walker. There can be a begrudging provincial respect for someone in the national eye, as well as for the out-of-state billionaires who have helped fill Walker’s campaign coffers with $31 million—an unprecedented amount in Wisconsin political history.

Sassy Angel

Terre (left), Maggie (middle), and Suzzy (right) on the back cover of their first album,

The Roche-Wainwright-McGarrigle intertwinings comprise a musical family the sprawling brilliance of which has not been experienced perhaps since—well, we wonʼt say the Lizst-Wagners—but at least the Carter-Cashes. The extended family oeuvre, though varied, often has a conversational, smart-kids-at-summer-camp quality that is both folky and jokey. The Rochesʼ own wistful, clever songs are written with a sweet street spontaneity and prosody, and their clear, pure voices are like a barbershop trio of sassy angels. But most often they sound like plucky girls riding home on a school bus, making things up as they go along.

Werner Herzog on Death Row

Michael Perry during his interview in Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss

A documentary film is often part stunt, part lab experiment, and the way a documentary filmmaker pursues his or her story will always involve a bit of amateur sleuthing, as well as improv. That such scriptless adventures have attracted a great director like Werner Herzog is curious but not alarming. Good documentary films can be made cheaply and we seem to be living in an abundantly golden—or at least copper (penny-wise)—era of them. Herzogʼs latest film, Into the Abyss, much like his 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man, uses the camera as a geiger counter to locate some of the more toxic elements of the American cultural psyche as seen through the questing mind of a pseudo-squeamish European: here the setting is small town Texas’s well-traveled road to death row.