First, Tom Hanks shocked and awed us with “Alan Bean Plus Four,” a casual reminder of baby boomer tyranny masquerading as short fiction in the New Yorker (of all places). Next, Hanks revealed that he is working on a collection of these gems, a book inspired by his perverse fetish for typewriters. Finally, the conductor of the Polar Express completed his reign of terror, his omne trium perfectum, by reminding us that the whole thing — both the New Yorker story and the collection of typewriter porn — is nothing but a setup for Hanx Writer, his already-existing, bestselling typewriter app for the iPad. … Read More
Laurie Penny is a wildly precocious 28-year-old journalist who knows how to shake up the system. As a prominent feminist, columnist for The New Statesman, blogger for her Orwell Prize-shortlisted site Penny Red, and contributor to august institutions like The Guardian, she’s a bright and sometimes controversial voice for the feminist left.
Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution, her new book on gender and power in the 21st century, comes off like a revolutionary call to arms. A witty, stylish writer, she starts with her own experiences — life online, her hospitalization for anorexia, dating today — and sharply relates how the mundane interactions of our lives are shaped by political forces: power, gender, and capitalism. Currently at Harvard as a Nieman Fellow, Penny discussed the issues and passions that spur her writing in an email interview. … Read More
Did Election Day bring out your inner pundit, organizer, or revolutionary — or depressed person who wants to escape reality via reading? If so, here’s a starter list of novels about politics that will feed the flames. We’re lucky so many of our greatest writers of the 20th century were disaffected… Read More
“I’m not trying to be Graham Greene. I think I actually am Graham Greene,” Denis Johnson told his editor before turning in the manuscript for his new novel, The Laughing Monsters. The novel takes place amid the maelstrom of corruption in modern day Africa, often in Sierra Leone, where Graham Greene ventured to write The Heart of the Matter. Greene’s own wanderlust precipitated his recruitment into the British secret service, so it’s not a surprise to find Johnson’s new book awash in the language of espionage. Nor is it the first time: Johnson’s National Book Award-winning Tree of Smoke featured CIA agents in Vietnam; The Laughing Monsters deals with the exploits of a corrupt, half-Scandinavian NATO operative named Roland Nair. One starts to wonder if Denis Johnson isn’t also a CIA or NATO recruit, but, then again, his father did work for the U.S. State Department. … Read More
When The Hairpin, The Awl’s sister blog for “weird girls” was at its peak, much of its personality came from the inimitable voice of its founding editor, Edith Zimmerman. She had a particular comic take, kooky and spooky, and she was liable to tell you how to make art out of your vegetables or where ghosts resided. She had a lot of strengths as a writer, but one thing that she was absolutely brilliant at was parodying a certain sort of feminine perspective, taking it to extra-outrageous lengths so you realized just how stupid compulsory femininity could be — and in that case, “Woman Laughing Alone With Salad” was her meme masterpiece. … Read More
This past weekend, The National Review‘s Kevin Williamson, notable for his transphobic piece “Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman” and an infamous “women who get abortions should be hanged” tweet, moved on to attacking Lena Dunham for writing about her own rape in her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl. … Read More
For an author who is arguably our greatest speculist of techno-culture, William Gibson hasn’t been spending much time in the future. His last novel to be set in the future, in fact, was 1999’s All Tomorrow’s Parties. It’s a rather extraordinary and rare event, then, that Gibson has set his new novel, The Peripheral, in not one but two futures. … Read More