Category Archives: Literature

Stories Like a Bullet: An Interview with Osama Alomar

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein                                                         

Who among us is not spending most of her time trying to understand the complexities of the times? How can we even begin to grapple with it all? Is comprehension even possible? Osama Alomar’s very short stories (or in Arabic, “al-qisa al-qasira jiddan”) do not offer answers. What they do provide is a necessary reminder of the importance of protecting the human spirit — a worthy touchstone, when confronting darkness. Continue reading

Female Trouble

By Tausif Noor

Here is an anecdote that sounds like a disclaimer: a year ago, I went out with a writer, who asked on our first date who I’d been reading. I mentioned Ottessa Moshfegh and Mary Gaitskill. His eyes widened. “Veronica is my favorite novel. I once met Mary at a writing retreat. She is unflinching.” I liken the experience to a reverse Bechdel Test of sorts: is it possible for two men discussing Gaitskill to refer to her in terms that don’t indicate their speakers’ own trepidation? Continue reading

Why Does a Historian Write a Memoir?: On Writing Adventures of a Postmodern Historian

By Robert A. Rosenstone

I can’t answer the title question for the other 450 scholars in my profession — the majority in recent decades — who have felt the need to write essays or books about their own lives and careers. For me the process was a long struggle to understand, through the dark and shifting screen of memory, aided by documents and publications, if and how my works of history, written over the last half century, have both reflected and inflected the larger culture. My goal in writing a memoir was not, however, simply to obtain a deeper sense of self-knowledge, but also to share with others the hard-won insights I have earned by researching, thinking, and writing about the past. Continue reading

Youth, Creativity, and Other Women: An Interview with Nicola Maye Goldberg

By Sophie Browner

Nicola Maye Goldberg’s new book, Other Women, is a delicate, feminine bildungsroman that follows a young woman from New York City to Berlin and back again. The protagonist — nameless, sensitive, brilliant — wanders in a ghostly fashion through the city streets, reflecting on her life and the decisions she has made. Other Women is a brilliant little novel (little in physicality and length at 164 pages), brimming with obsession, vulnerability, and heartbreak. It is at once dark and bright — morbid without being turgid, specific without being pretentious. Continue reading

The Incendiary Impact of Elif Batuman’s The Idiot

By Louise McCune

A factory sorts its oil drums. Behind door number one is a room of full barrels, and behind door two sits a stash of empty ones. Workers at the factory are wary around the full ones, taking precaution to avoid combustion, when in fact it is the other set that deserve their heightened vigilance. Those empty drums are in fact not empty at all. Once their liquid is used up, they become full of flammable vapors and are therefore even more volatile than their unused counterparts. Their menace is obscured by their moniker — “empty” — with disastrous consequence; deeming the empty drums empty of threat, workers are disarmed in their presence. They take breaks. They light cigarettes. They start a fire. Continue reading

Balm and the Captured Castle: Dodie Smith, Marilynne Robinson, and the Literature of Faith

By Ellie Wymard

Before a friend urged me to read I Capture the Castle, J.K.Rowling had called its protagonist “one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met,” Erica Jong characterized it as “a delicious, compulsively readable novel,” Chloe Schama had said it was a “too narrowly celebrated masterpiece” in her column for the New Republic, Julian Barnes deemed it the “comfort book” for a character in his Man Booker Prize winner The Secret of an Ending, and it had won a place on the BBC’S List of 100 Great Books. Continue reading

What is America Anyway?: An Interview With Eula Biss

By Cypress Marrs

In 1979, Joan Didion proclaimed, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Eula Biss brings this certainty back from the brink of truism by asking: what are these stories? Where do they come from? And what do they mean for the way we live? Dissecting the myths that determine the way news is covered and the world is conceived, Biss employs the personal, the philosophical, the linguistic, and the historical to reframe moral and political dilemmas. Continue reading

A Beacon of Sanity in Our Age of Polarity: On Contemporary Sufism and the Works of Idries Shah

By John Zada

With the Internet and social media offering everyone an instant voice and platform, it sometimes feels as if we’ve all become standard bearers of a cause, or a medley of them. The ease with which we can publicly air our viewpoints everyday, even many times a day, has created a ruckus of opposing perspectives that is staggering in its intensity and breadth. We are exposed to many different ideas and points of view, which is a good thing. But what we fail to see in all the exciting rabble-rousing is that we’re also engendering a toxic culture of disputation that is seeping into all areas of life. Continue reading

The Language Behind a (Short) Brutal Affair: An Interview with Translator Stefan Tobler

By Stephanie LaCava

One of two published long-form works by Brazilian writer Raduan Nassar, A Cup of Rage is a tiny book clocking in at a carefully wrought 65 pages that tackles the dynamic between two sparring lovers, fraught with competitive ire and dueling politic. The couple is comprised of a reclusive older man and a younger woman, who works as a journalist. The man narrates all but the final passage, expressing disdain for his lovers privilege and simultaneous claim of hard-won moral integrity. You shitty little intellectual, he says, it never occurred to you that everything you say and everything you vomit up is all stuff that youve heard from other people, that you havent done any of the stuff you talk about, that you only screwed like a virgin and that without my crowbar you arent any-fucking thing. Having lived through more years, he thinks her posture of higher ground claimed humanism is neither sustainable nor truthful. He feels superior; or rather, knows the power he wields in seeming so. He reflects: above all [] the more indifferent I seemed to be, the more attractive she found me. Continue reading