Miranda Popkey lives in Massachusetts. Her first novel, Topics of Conversation, will be published by Knopf in 2020. (July 2019)


Pandemic Journal

A man wearing a face mask walks by a mural depicting Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, May 13, 2020

The latest edition of our brief dispatches by New York Review writers documenting the coronavirus outbreak around the world, including Coco Fusco in Brooklyn, Lucas Adams in Brooklyn, Sara Nović in Philadelphia, Gavin Francis in Edinburgh, Amanda Fortini in Livingston, Jeet Thayil in Bangalore, Stuart Lewis in Brooklyn, Nellie Hermann in Wellfleet, Carina del Valle Schorske in Manhattan, Jonathan Mingle in Lincoln, Reed Lindsay in Havana, Miranda Popkey in Watertown, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro on Fire Island, Dan Chiasson in Wellesley, and more.

The Incendiary Sexual Politics of ‘Burn This’

Adam Driver in Lanford Wilson's Burn This, Hudson Theatre, New York City, 2019

In Burn This, currently in revival at the Hudson Theatre, male force is the prelude, perhaps even the key, to female seduction. Here’s how I explain it: to be socialized as female is to be told that a man knows your desire better than you do. If what a man wants to do is force you to kiss him, who are you to say you don’t want to be kissed? If what a man wants to do is hurt you, who are you to say you don’t want to be hurt? I do not mean to deny female agency; I mean to contextualize it. Can a woman willingly submit to a man? Yes, and in any number of ways. But she inevitably does so under the umbrella of patriarchy, her desires not defined, but in some way colored, by its shadow.