‘Til Human Voices Wake Us: Dale Peck’s ‘Visions and Revisions’ in the Age of AIDS

Visions and Revisions, the title of Dale Peck’s new memoir about coming of age as a writer — as a person — during the AIDS crisis, might seem like a strange one from a novelist, critic, and essayist who once maligned literary modernism and its descendants. Only it isn’t. The title comes, as many readers will know, from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” perhaps the 20th century’s greatest literary work devoted to sexual indecision. This is fitting for Peck, whose memoir is embroidered with the sexual indecisions brought about by the AIDS crisis, which, the book reminds us, was a matryoshka doll of other crises, both public and private, theoretical and practical, cultural and political — all of which threatened to overwhelm the writer. The subtitle of the first section: “And in short I was afraid.” … Read More

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Bad Sex In Fiction Nominees: Murakami, Cunningham, Richard Flanagan

The world’s most dreaded, and awkward, literary prize has released its shortlist.

And as always, nominees for The Literary Review… Read More

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Michael Cunningham Explains What Happened With This Year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Like most people, we were incredibly surprised back in April when it was announced that this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction would be awarded to nobody. Not David Foster Wallace for The Pale King. Not Karen Russell for Swamplandia! Not Denis Johnson for Train Dreams. Nobody! At the time we wrote that the three jurors… Read More

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10 Contemporary Novels Based on Classic Lit That Are Actually Worth Your Time

This week saw the American release of Francesca Segal’s debut novel, The Innocents, a superb modern-day retelling of The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton’s classic novel of upper class scandal. Now, adaptation, cross-pollination and flat out stealing are nothing new in the literary world — after all, Madame Bovary was heavily influenced by Don Quixote, Finnegans Wake was inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Jane Eyre. And those are just a few sterling examples — the trend of adaptation and re-adaptation is rampant, and sadly, there are plenty of cheap reincarnations of classic texts that put their inspirations to shame. However, we’re so excited by The Innocents that we decided to put together an entire reading list of wonderful contemporary novels based on works of classic literature, so you can indulge in the present and the past in equal measure. Click through to check out our list, and as always, if we’ve missed your favorite, be sure to let us know in the comments! … Read More

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Read Some of the Meanest Book Reviews of the Year

Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending may have been one of 2011’s most acclaimed novels, scooping up the Man Booker Prize and eliciting all manner of ecstatic praise. But it didn’t impress the brilliant and iconoclastic writer Geoff Dyer, who reviewed the book for The New York Times, and found that “any extreme expression of opinion about The Sense of an Ending feels inappropriate. It isn’t terrible, it is just so . . . average. It is averagely compelling (I finished it), involves an average amount of concentration and, if such a thing makes sense, is averagely well written: excellent in its averageness!”

It’s impossible to deny the fun in reading a nasty review that also happens to be smart, lively, and hilarious. So, if you enjoyed the excerpt above, chances are you’ll love all eight pieces that made the shortlist for The Omnivore‘s first annual Hatchet Job of the Year Award, which honors what its judges deem “the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review published in a newspaper or magazine in 2011.” The winner will be announced February 7th. See who joins Dyer among the finalists after the jump, let us know which review you think is most deliciously mean. … Read More

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Yuppie Lit: Books About The Filthy Rich

Macy Halford recently wrote in the New Yorker‘s Book Bench that she happened upon the “hipster lit” section of Bookhampton while browsing in its Sag Harbor location. The shelves are loaded with the usual suspects: Bolaño, Hornby, and Rimbaud. In the comments section, a rep from Bookhampton gushes, “Bukowski and McSweeney’ [sic] as well as the ultimate female hipster Jennifer Egan (Visit from Goon Squad) and Patti Smith jumped off the shelves this morning… We just put them back!”

Sixty-three years after Anatole Broyard published “A Portrait of the Hipster” in Partisan Review, we are still arguing about what constitutes a hipster. Instead of another essay on the topic, we thought choose a different tack and encourage an alternate list for those Hamptons residents and fair-weather visitors who are sick and tired of their bookstores being invaded by scowling tight-jeaned youths and adults wearing plaid shirts. We came up with a list of novels with acceptable characters for the lily-white denizens of the land where people use “summer” as a verb and argue about ancestors who were on the Mayflower or about who is from “new” money. (South- and East Hampton, we’re looking at you.) What are your suggestions for a Yuppie Lit genre, dear readers? … Read More

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‘One Story’ Names the Top 10 Short Stories of All Time

As a fitting finale to National Short Story Month, we asked the talented crew over at One Story to name their ten favorite epigrammatic tales. Tanya Rey, the managing editor, explained via e-mail that their choices are in no particular order, so anti-Salingerists are advised to not get all huffy just because JD leads the list. Tanya writes, “Certain authors (e.g., Cheever, Moore, Johnson, Barthleme) were nominated more than once, for different stories, so we tried to choose the most ‘classic’ of those stories. This was not exactly a scientific or objective process.” However, we stand behind the choices because they’re some of our favorites as well. What do you think, dear readers? … Read More

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Famous, Retold Stories in Literature

Besides being an accomplished pediatrician, Chris Adrian was named one of the New Yorker‘s “20 Under 40″ fiction writers last summer, and is also is pursuing a master’s degree at Harvard’s Divinity School, in case you thought he was a slouch. An excerpt from his novel is available here. We’re celebrating today’s release of The Great Night with ten of our favorite retold stories. Some of the following plots are lifted from ancient myths, while others come from relatively new novels. All have put a new spin on familiar tales, but have been able to make them their own. So read on, readers, and tell us what we’ve missed. … Read More

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What's on at Flavorpill: The Links That Made the Rounds in Our Office

Today at Flavorpill, we loved the idea of imaginary monsters hanging out in real places. We wondered if it was Terry Richardson’s warped idea for Crystal Renn to nom an octopus tentacle in a new spread for French Vogue. It looks like a dirty old gym sock. We rather fancied the idea… Read More

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Contemporary Literature’s Most Memorable Moms

As James Joyce once wrote, “Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.” Sweet, right? While we’d agree that many of the most memorable mothers in contemporary literature (some real, some fictional) tried their very best to love their progeny, in most cases it just didn’t turn out so well — for either side. Check out our list of memorable moms, and be sure to add anyone who we’ve left off in the comments. … Read More

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