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Our Lady of Deadpan

Joan Didion’s genius was at exploring the paradoxes and contradictions in the stories we tell ourselves.

In the Beforemath

In his novels Jon McGregor explores the time before and after tragic events, resisting predictable narrative formulas and rescuing moments outside the chain of cause and effect from oblivion.

Lean Fall Stand

by Jon McGregor


Can He Build Back Better?

Many liberals worry that the Democrats are doomed. But Biden can still rebound.

Picasso’s Obsessions

The last volume of John Richardson’s biography documents the rivalry between Dora Maar and Marie-Thérèse Walter for the painter’s attention and his intense engagement with depicting them.

A Life of Picasso: The Minotaur Years, 1933–1943

by John Richardson, with the collaboration of Ross Finocchio and Delphine Huisinga


The Nonconformist

The mood of John le Carré’s posthumously published novel, Silverview, is brisk and knowing compared with the melancholic, regretful tone of the earlier books.

Silverview

by John le Carré


Black Voices, German Song

What did German listeners hear when African American singers performed Schubert or Brahms?

Singing Like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms

by Kira Thurman


Regarding the Solace of Others

Michael Ignatieff’s moving book explores how consolation has been configured in different eras and suggests what we might learn from individual examples of “the human experience.”

On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times

by Michael Ignatieff


Lost Illusions

Sylvain Cypel’s transformation from liberal Zionist to ferocious critic of Israel.

The State of Israel vs. the Jews

by Sylvain Cypel, translated from the French by William Rodarmor


Left Behind in Lisbon

Maria Judite de Carvalho’s depiction of the lives of women in mid-twentieth-century Portugal is executed as precisely and without sentiment as an autopsy.

Empty Wardrobes

by Maria Judite de Carvalho, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa, with an introduction by Kate Zambreno


Intimate and Invasive

The prostate has caused difficulty for men and medicine for centuries. A new “biography of the prostate” examines the haunting terror it creates.

A Cultural Biography of the Prostate

by Ericka Johnson

Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020

by Fred D’Aguiar


In the Pencil Zone

Susan Bernofsky’s biography of Robert Walser approaches her subject with an openness to other, previously rejected possibilities.

Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser

by Susan Bernofsky


The Other Rome

Four new books challenge the Eurocentric perspective that has left the eastern half of the empire on the margins of standard historical narratives.

New Rome: The Empire in the East

by Paul Stephenson

The Rich and the Pure: Philanthropy and the Making of Christian Society in Early Byzantium

by Daniel Caner

The Last Great War of Antiquity

by James Howard-Johnston

The Formation of Christendom

by Judith Herrin, with a new preface by the author


Hearts vs. Minds

Why, the leftist writer Tess Slesinger asked, should people give up sex and art to make the revolution?

The Unimaginable Touch of Time

Searching for meaning in geological rupture

This Is Chance!: The Great Alaska Earthquake, Genie Chance, and the Shattered City She Held Together

by Jon Mooallem

The Book of Unconformities: Speculations on Lost Time

by Hugh Raffles


The Dungeon Master

Peter Thiel is full of contradictions—a libertarian who founded a company that aids government surveillance, a critic of tech who supports Facebook’s mission for world domination, and a defender of free speech who helped to kill a media outlet.

The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power

by Max Chafkin

Issue Details

On the cover: Una Ursprung, Avalanche, landscape #26, 2020. © Una Ursprung.

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