Nathaniel Rich’s latest novel is King Zeno. (September 2018)

Follow Nathaniel Rich on Twitter: @NathanielRich.

IN THE REVIEW

Downhill Racing

Martin Amis

The Rub of Time: Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump: Essays and Reportage, 1994–2017

by Martin Amis
Novelists, as a class, abhor reading criticism of their work, and with good reason—the only adequate account of a novel, at least for its author, is the one that lies between its covers. The experience of reading dissections of one’s work can be traumatizing, like watching a medical student hack …

Philip Roth (1933–2018)

Philip Roth, Warren, Connecticut, 1979
I never had the “talk” with my parents. I had only the “book”: Portnoy’s Complaint, which one evening my mother, in a rare embarrassed flush, tossed in my direction before escaping to her bedroom, trailed by a rushed “You might get a kick out of that.”

Roth Agonistes

Why Write?: Collected Nonfiction 1960–2013

by Philip Roth
During his early writing years in Chicago, Philip Roth began each morning by shouting at the young face peering out from the mirror at him: “Attack! Attack!” The force of Roth’s attack, sustained for more than a half-century, is what made his retirement so startling. It is also the quality that, more than anything, sustains his Why Write?: Collected Nonfiction 1960–2013.

Rushdie’s New York Bubble

Salman Rushdie, New York City, 2005; photograph by Bruce Davidson

The Golden House

by Salman Rushdie
Whether by design, chance, or oracular divination, Salman Rushdie has managed, within a year of the 2016 election, to publish the first novel of the Trumpian Era. On purely technical merits this is an astounding achievement, the literary equivalent of Katie Ledecky lapping the Olympic field in the 1500-meter freestyle. The publishing industry still operates at an aristocratic pace; Egypt built the new Suez Canal in less time than it typically takes to convert a finished manuscript into a hardcover. Yet less than eight months into the administration, Rushdie has produced a novel that, if not explicitly about the president, is tinged a toxic shade of orange.

NYR DAILY

The Creatures Within

Arthur Kern: Dance on Trigger, 1984

I found the sculptures of Arthur Kern, now at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, startling not because I had never seen anything like them before—but the opposite. The sense of recognition was immediate and visceral. I was certain I had seen these images before, in some other time, somewhere very far away from here.

An Amazon Without Certainty

Antonio Bolivar as Karamakate and Jan Bijvoet as Theo in Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent, 2015

It’s a story as old as Alexander von Humboldt: white explorer treks into the Amazon, becomes lost and disoriented, paints face with mud, eats beetles, and has visions of galaxies and exotic reptiles, before finally achieving enlightenment—or total madness. But Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent is strange enough to resist the worst of the old clichés, which is to say it resists moral certainty.

Remnants of New Orleans

Richard Sexton: Ruin of a leper colony hospital, Caño del Oro, near Cartagena, Colombia, 2010

“While it actually resembles no other city upon the face of the earth,” wrote Lafcadio Hearn of New Orleans, “it owns suggestions of towns in Italy, and in Spain, of cities in England and in Germany, of seaports in the Mediterranean, and of seaports in the tropics.” There’s no better illustration of this than the photographs of Richard Sexton.

NYR CALENDAR

The 9th Annual Cassidy Park Cook-Off/BBQ

This annual cook-off is an excellent opportunity to visit Bogalusa, “The Magic City,” a town founded in 1906 by the Goodyears of Buffalo, New York, in a pine forest on the Mississippi border eighty minutes north of New Orleans.