Imperfect Wisdom: On Rachel Aviv’s “Strangers To Ourselves”

SEPTEMBER 22, 2022 TOWARD THE END of the 20th century, the conventional wisdom around mental illness changed, with biomedical explanations blotting out Freud’s psychoanalytic theories about its root causes. In her new book Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make UsRachel Aviv, a journalist and staff writer at The New Yorker, steps … Read more

Masculinity Is the New Prey: On Ander Monson’s “Predator”

SEPTEMBER 22, 2022 ANDER MONSON HAS WATCHED Predator 146 times. He was 12 years old when the movie came out in 1987, which partially accounts for his obsession. Predator is one of those loud, dumb movies that became a kind of lingua franca for American boys and man-children of a certain age. They loved recreating … Read more

The Paris Review – For the Record, the Review Has Not Abolished Fiction

Subject: Inquiry about a small change beginning with issue 238 Dear Emily, Volume 238 dropped the fiction and nonfiction labels previously attached to prose pieces. I found no rationale for the decision in your editor’s note to that edition, although your reference to “fiction or nonfiction or something in between” may be an allusion to … Read more

The Paris Review – Free Dirt

Free dirt. Photograph via Craigslist. For the past three years, I’ve filled a folder on my desktop with pictures of dirt that I found on Craigslist. The dirt in each picture was offered free of charge to whoever was willing to pick it up (“You haul”) or, if you were lucky, a free-dirter might have … Read more

The Paris Review – Other People’s Partings

Fall River, Massachusetts. Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. So many accounts of Chekhov’s death, many of them exaggerated, some outright bogus. The only indisputable thing is that he died at forty-four. That’s etched in stone in Moscow. I like to read them anyway. I’m not alone. Chekhov death fanatics abound. His last sip … Read more

Seemingly Ordinary Diction: On Leonid Schwab’s “Everburning Pilot”

SEPTEMBER 21, 2022 I USED TO THINK of the weirdly calm lyrics of Rae Armantrout as a uniquely American phenomenon, plausible only in a poetic lineage that runs through William Carlos Williams. But when I read the work of the Russian Leonid Schwab poet in Everburning Pilot — a bilingual volume edited by Alexander Spektor, … Read more

On Silk | Sally Wen Mao

In her garden, Empress Leizu watched the fat white wormfeasting on the mulberry leavesits mouth a gutter, a hole, a maw so consumed by consumptionit falls through a hole it has eaten into her teacup, and once steeped in that bitternessthe silkworm unravels, retching spools and spoolsof thread soft as magnolia, fragrant too, and the … Read more

The Inner Lives of Others: On Peter C. Baker’s “Planes”

SEPTEMBER 20, 2022 IN PETER BAKER’s propulsive new novel Planes, four figures cross paths: Ayoub, sent to Temara prison in Morocco, for reasons unknown; Amira, formerly Maria, his wife who awaits him in Rome; Melanie, mother, realtor, and school board member, rekindling a passion for local activism; and Bradley, her occasional lover and the owner … Read more

The Muse as Creator: On Mark Braude’s “Kiki Man Ray”

SEPTEMBER 20, 2022 IN 1924, THE AMERICAN-BORN artist Man Ray created in his Paris apartment a typical specimen of surrealist humor. The photograph Le Violon d’Ingres (1924) shows the bare back of his seated lover; between the cello-like curves of her nude waist, he painted a pair of f-holes directly onto the print. The pun, … Read more