Literary Fiction

Current Editor: Nicholas Dames

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 ...

Future Shocks

“The future’s not what it used to be,” sings Mickey Newbury in his 1971 hit of the same name. His song frames this witticism in romantically personal terms, but the insight has broad applicability ...

Who Owns the Blues?

Long ago, in a time available to us in the dirty crackle and hiss of 78s with worn labels, an African American singer who had traveled for 15 years on the medicine show circuit committed to shellac a ...

American Storyteller

What makes American life meaningful? Apple products? Cat videos? Torrential pornography? The prospect of a lavish retirement? The senior prom? Forestalling your plunge into poverty? Prescription ...

Last Comic Standing

Why is a good novel like a joke? Before you think too hard, relax: there’s no single punch line here. I’m simply drawing attention to what might be a fruitful comparison. Like a joke, a good novel ...

Singing in the Dark

They came to bury her with praises but, defeated once again by her sheer presence, their words shriveled and rotted in the monsoon damp. As Mahasweta Devi’s dead body lay in a Kolkata hospital on ...