Literary Fiction

Ondaatje’s Long War

In a scathing review of The English Patient, Hilary Mantel called Michael Ondaatje’s most feted work “uneven, unresolved, unsatisfactory.” Her criticism has since become a regular complaint about the ...

Brexit or Utopia?

Ali Smith’s Autumn, the first installment of a four-volume “seasonal quartet” that now continues with Winter, was hailed on its release as “the first great Brexit novel.” As any reader of the book knows, there ...

Nurturing the Margins

“Wherever you are, I hope you are safe and know I loved you enough to write you this book,” Catherine Hernandez writes in the opening pages of her debut novel, Scarborough. While the dedication ...

The Sisters Grimm

Can a centuries-old literary tradition tell us anything useful about modern life? The continuing vitality of the fairy tale in contemporary culture would suggest an emphatic yes. And the vast ...

What Is at Stake in Yemen?

As a commodity in the United States, coffee has gone through three waves. In the early 20th century, with the advent of mass production and vacuum packaging ...

The Misfit Resistance

What is a misfit? In Lidia Yuknavitch’s definition, the term refers to those of us who “do life weird or wrong,” who literally miss fitting in with normative models of linear progress. Childhood ...

Motherhood in the End Times

Having a child forces you to confront all of those abstract threats you might have previously labored to ignore: physical entropy, the planetary future, human ...

Love in a Broken World

There are now, it seems, more ways than ever for a woman to reach or ruin her own potential. Mainstream feminism today hinges upon a vision of woman as rational actor capable of logically and ...

Immigration’s Daughters

The voices of the six Chinese American girls who narrate the short stories in Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart collectively convey the emotional texture—and often the burden—of striving. What does it mean to believe that life can and will improve? …

Claire Messud’s Noble Lie

In the bouquet of novel typologies—the picaresque, the Künstlerroman, the Zeitroman, the novel of ideas, magical realism, hysterical realism, “experimental” anything—the bildungsroman is the least ...

Our Migrant World

Within the rhetorical toolbox of contemporary political discourse, the language used to characterize international migration, refugee crises, and border crossings might fairly be called impoverished ...

Great Aspirations

Chetan Bhagat is possibly the most successful Indian English novelist ever, having sold over seven million copies of his books over a relatively short career. But he is largely unheard of in the ...

Cursed Masculinity

Masculinity is a curse. This, at least, is the driving conceit behind Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Ugandan epic, Kintu, published in Kenya by the Kwani Trust in 2014, and in the US by Transit Books ...