Book Review

What Lies Above, Beneath, and Apart: Hemingway and Hemingway

Let’s start with a thought experiment.

Step One: Imagine two huge icebergs, one representing Ernest Hemingway’s writing and the other representing everything else in his life. Imagine that these two icebergs sometimes bump up against each other and sometimes drift apart. Imagine that these icebergs are like the one Hemingway uses to make an analogy with effective writing (especially his): its “dignity of movement . . . is due to only one-eighth of it being above the water” (Death in the Afternoon).

The Chair

“The Chair,” the six-episode series written by actress/writer Amanda Peet and writer/academic Annie Julia Wyman, and produced by Game of Thrones duo David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and Chair star Sandra Oh, has garnered much attention in recent weeks. Reviews mostly hailing the Netflix show as “brilliant,” “timely,” and “hilarious” have flooded the media.


Eric Michaud’s The Barbarian Invasions: A Genealogy of Art (2015, trans. 2019) provides a compelling account of art history’s origins tagged onto an odd mélange of muddled thinking about late antiquity. It’s a narrative that can be caricatured as “[Walter] Goffart lite,” an outdated, hackneyed sketch of the Germanic invasions that triggered the so-called “Dark Ages” in traditional historiography.

Reviewing Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads

From the moment in Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Crossroads, when Perry, the intellectual 15-year-old son of the First Reformed Church’s Minister, Russell Hildebrandt, walks into Reverend Haefle’s Holiday Open House, dips his cup into a cauldron of “Christmas gløgg for grownups,” and moves to the center of the room to pose questions to two clergymen about how to achieve goodness, I was hooked! Perry was known to deliberate on the essence of goodness and the immutability of the soul, for heaven sakes! So, rather than stopping for a chat with Mrs.

Ottessa Moshfegh's DEATH IN HER HANDS: A Review

Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death In Her Hands is a wry, toying tailspin of a book. It begins with the finding of a note: “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.” Its discovery sends the newest of Moshfegh’s eccentric narrators into a psychosomatic spiral of homespun sleuthing and self-realization. What results is an insidious meta-mystery that launches the protagonist on a twisted quest for justice, identity and erratic female independence.    

Joy Williams' Ninety-Nine Stories of God

Joy Williams’s collection of flash fiction Ninety-nine Stories of God (Tin House Books, July 2016) begins with what might be called a ghost story.  In the first sentence of “Postcard,” the narrator speaks with Williams’s trademark craftsmanship: “A woman who adored her mother, and had mourned her death for years now, came across some postcards in a store that sold antiques and various other bric-a-brac.” I highlight this sentence because I hope it grips you as it did me when I first encountered it, but also because it nicely represents the concision and density of the rest