Tag: Biography

Ordinary People

One fantasy of modernism is telling all there is to tell about the most ordinary of lives. On a train journey from Richmond to Waterloo Station, Virginia Woolf watched “an old lady in the corner ...

Ordinary People

One fantasy of modernism is telling all there is to tell about the most ordinary of lives. On a train journey from Richmond to Waterloo Station, Virginia Woolf watched “an old lady in the corner ...

The Ferrante Paradox

Reading Frantumaglia, the new collection of letters, interviews, and occasional prose from Elena Ferrante, I was struck by how often the author opened her correspondence with an apology. “I apologize ...

Charlotte Brontë’s Anger

You might think that a museum show about an iconoclastic Victorian author would, in these postelection weeks, constitute a kind of escapism. Not so when that author is Charlotte Brontë. An ...

The Mortal Marx

In the mid-1860s, as an anxious and ailing Karl Marx worked on the 30-page essay that would billow into Das Kapital, his daughter Eleanor—“Tussy”—would play under his desk. With her dolls, kittens ...

Boss Poet

Little has changed since Bruce Springsteen explained the origin of his song “Thunder Road” to a seething crowd at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey, on September 19, 1978. “There was this ...

The Intrusion Artist

By the late ’50s, when he was already widely considered one of France’s finest filmmakers, Robert Bresson would confess in interviews that he hardly ever went to the movies. There was something about ...

All About My Mother

In her canonical 1939 essay, “A Sketch of the Past,” Virginia Woolf wonders how a coherent past may be reconstructed from countless angles, styles, and past selves. How do we choose from so many ...

The Belle and the Bard

The First Folio held court in Amherst, MA, late last spring, when purple graduation balloons hovered over the green hills of the college and minivans lined its streets. For the younger siblings, the ...

All Ireland in a Grave

A hanged man was never more popular. One hundred years ago, the British government executed Roger Casement for his participation in a rebellion in Ireland, the Easter Rising of 1916. This year ...

Sex and Socialism

Three recent books tell the stories of four women whose lives both absorbed and propelled the vast, multifaceted socialist movement in Britain from 1870 to 1920: Lizzie Burns, Nellie Dowell, Muriel ...

Diane Arbus and the Power of Cruel Art

“What you notice about people,” Diane Arbus said, “is the flaw.” Arbus turned flaws into great photographs. During the 1950s and ’60s, she pointed her camera straight across polite social boundaries ...

The Thread

1 Sometime during my senior year of high school, my mother went on a laundry strike. Her goal, as I understood it, was to get my father to pick his underwear up off the bathroom floor, carry them to ...

Live Through This

I used to refer to my dark times as the IWTDs, when the mental refrain I want to die so dominated my thoughts that I took to writing the acronym in the margins of books I was reading. It was a huge ...