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Reviews

11 March 2014

Ever since the publication of The Kite Runner in 2003, the Afghan-born American novelist Khaled Hosseini has been the foremost practitioner of what we might call humanitarian fiction—work designed to jar privileged readers out of their complacency by reminding them of the extreme hardships and injustices suffered by people in other parts of the world. More…

5 March 2014

In this way, Tatiana protects the life she has set up for herself. She has no one else’s problems to solve, no salient societal force that she is fighting against. In her back-and-forth with Jonas, the only romantic relationship of substance to appear in the book, she holds the controlling hand, deciding what she wishes to happen and when to put a stop to it. More…

8 January 2014

The screen’s inhuman beauty fades. One takes more in yet feels it less. And, most damningly to Wareheim and Heidecker, it isn’t funny: as Wareheim explained in a brief New York Times profile, “There’s nothing less funny than someone who looks cool.” More…

Originally published in Issue 18: Good News

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23 December 2013

How do you tell the history of the world? Not long ago this question would have seemed naive. The only people enthusiastic about universal history were complacent idiots who thought that history had ended with the cold war and the twin triumphs of democracy and globalization, or that it was moving toward an ever fuller manifestation of the glory of the Western way of life. Raining on their parade felt like a civic duty. More…

Originally published in Issue 18: Good News

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18 December 2013

It’s difficult to say exactly how long I’ve lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant. It’s not for lack of trying. For some time I believed I first moved to the neighborhood in summer 2008, but by any honest accounting of the neighborhood’s actual geography, I first moved there in summer 2004, into a stuffy two-bedroom apartment on Throop Avenue, just south of the Flushing Avenue border with “East” Williamsburg. More…

Originally published in Issue 18: Good News

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10 October 2013

The child who appears in the four stories of Alice Munro’s “Finale” understands that she must be like her father in order to survive her childhood, and like her mother in order to transcend it. Once she has left home, it is Munro’s great achievement to say something clear and ringing without appearing to say anything special. More…

26 August 2013

Instead of as questions of agency or hegemony, slavery appears here as a system of flows: of energy (solar, floral, faunal, human, and riverine), of money, of bodies, and of information. The result is historical prose of unusual pungency: “The Cotton Kingdom was built out of sun, water, and soil; animal energy, human labor, and mother wit; grain, flesh, and cotton; pain, hunger, and fatigue; blood, milk, semen, and shit.” More…

19 August 2013

Feminists ambivalent about Wages for Housework tend to misunderstand the demand for a wage as a demand for a thing, for “a lump of money,” she says. Money certainly helps, but Wages for Housework is more than a simple demand: it is also a political perspective. In asking for wages for housework, women distill a nexus of demands, critiques, and observations into a single phrase… More…

1 July 2013

Critics have been worrying about the death of the novel for decades, and the publication of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is unlikely to change that. The leading suspect in the novel’s murder has so often been mass culture—thief of time, sapper of seriousness—and here it is growing upon a literary classic like an aggressive tumor. More…

Originally published in Issue 9: Bad Money

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24 April 2013

Here are some of the words in Mantel’s Cromwell novels: Guiles, argent, couchant. Estoc. Exsanguinates. Fuckeur. There is hunting; there is jousting. There are sconces, velvet cushions, jellies in the shape of castles, and stuffed piglets. There are songs that can only be described as bawdy. More…

21 August 2012

Throughout the 20th century, Parmar argues, the weak state was supplemented by private foundations, which took on many of the functions of government. Unelected, unaccountable, and for the most part unchecked, these foundations channeled billions of dollars into positioning the United States as a world power. Immune to the vicissitudes of democratic politics, they functioned as a shadow government. More…

9 August 2012

Purpura takes the act of attention to extremes, staying and staying—with an object, a thought, a moment—in order to get closer to some place of deep stillness. She works her way through the fleeting impressions the world presses into her mind in order to arrive at new knowledge about what it means to have a mind capable of engaging in this activity at all. More…

19 July 2012

To close-read the news reports was to be impressed by the suggestive quality of their syntax. As ABC phrased it, Eugene “had to be shot four times by a police officer to halt the cannibalistic attack.” That resignation—“had to be”—is a sort seldom used in reference to humans. It’s your sick pet that “had to be” put down, not your sick brother. More…

31 January 2012

Blog empire Gawker Media, like its magazine counterparts Conde Nast and Hearst, asks readers to sort themselves by advertising demographic. One might be interested in sports, and read Deadspin. Or one might be interested in being a woman, and read Jezebel. When Jezebel launched, I myself was keenly interested in being a woman. I was 20 years old, and I was curious about the ways it could be done. More…

19 January 2012

Ryan Schreiber launched Pitchfork in November 1995 from his parents’ house in a suburb of Minneapolis. Because the domain name www.pitchfork.com belonged to a company selling livestock out of Butte Falls, Oregon, Schreiber had to settle for www.pitchforkmedia.com. The name, he told BusinessWeek in 2008, was meant to suggest “an angry mob mentality” toward the music industry. More…

29 August 2011

The Book of Mormon teaches us what secularists don’t get about what makes religion so awesome: it’s like a musical you live in, and it can actually be more fun if it seems a little fake, if you have to work a little to believe. There tend to be so many gaps that the thrill of it is filling them in, making them fit. More…

3 June 2011

Like fast fashion, social media have brought with them a profusion of means and ways to reshape and display our identity. Constantly given new tools to share with, always prompted to say something new about ourselves (“What’s on your mind?” Facebook asks thoughtfully), we are pressured to continually devise ingenious solutions to our identity. More…

13 April 2011

Reflected here was the first paradigm shift in the humanities since the emergence of theory and the culture wars of the preceding two decades. If the question of the ’80s and ’90s was, “What should we be reading, and how?,” the question that dogged the opening years of our new millennium was of a vastly more dismal kind: “Why bother?” More…

Originally published in Issue 11: Dual Power

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6 October 2010

Video games are worth loving, but with this love comes shame. Not passing regret or social embarrassment, but a sharp-edged, physical guilt: the hunch-backed, raw-fingered, burning-eyed pain that comes at the sad and greasy end of an all-night binge. You have ostentatiously, really viciously wasted your life; you might as well have been masturbating for the last nine hours—your hands, at least, would feel better. More…

9 September 2010

Mary Gaitskill’s characters do not give blowjobs. But one does bend down to a man’s waist “in a position that was not very pleasing either aesthetically or psychologically.” Her characters do not have random hook-ups. But a woman who’s had too much to drink may kiss a stranger with “an escalating slur of useless feeling.” Phrases like these force the reader to slow down in a way that the characters do not, revealing oral sex as a self-conscious pose, and a kiss as vivified desperation. More…

18 August 2010

We’re very pleased to announce the imminent launch of N1FR, our new online film review. If you subscribe to our RSS feed, you may already have seen a preview of the issue. If not, you’ll have to wait until next week. More…

23 April 2010

Revisiting the New York Times article after trying miracle fruit is another matter. To interpret Tabasco as donut glaze requires wishful thinking and recalls the party guest who’s wearing a lampshade after one beer. One suspects a preexisting need to make food more interesting than it is, more beautiful, more strange—an impulse more fundamental than a flavor-tripping party. More…

Originally published in Issue 9: Bad Money

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23 April 2010

Virginia Woolf, in a letter to a friend, explained her reasons for writing A Room of One’s Own: “I wanted to do something for the young women—they seem to get fearfully depressed.” Jessica Valenti, the founder of Feministing.com, also wants to do something for the young women. More…

Originally published in Issue 9: Bad Money

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14 September 2009

Reading Craigslist, I feel as though I am dipping my cup straight into the swift-flowing stream of human need. Laid-back is the only thing these people aren’t. When I step back onto the “regular” dating sites, I feel like someone coming out of bright sunshine into a darkened room; it takes a while for my eyes to readjust. Everything’s so . . . subtle. On Craigslist, people say what they want; on Nerve or OkCupid, they say who they are, and you infer the rest. More…

Originally published in Issue 8: Recessional

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14 September 2009

Those of us in commodity-rich, artistically saturated, more or less urbanized Western countries, at the start of the 21st century, know all too well how these games are played. We know it instinctively, so well that the kind of confession of musical taste offered above has become a drearily familiar part of everyday life. We also know it because we know “Bourdieu,” whether we’ve read the man or not. More…

Originally published in Issue 8: Recessional

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14 September 2009

In April 1975, North Vietnamese forces overwhelmed the South and took Saigon. American troops, who had mostly withdrawn by 1973, had no way of stemming the tide. “COMMUNISTS ENTER SAIGON,” ran the AP wire: “VICTORY IN INDOCHINA” was the banner that ran across the New Left Review’s May-June issue of that year. More…

Originally published in Issue 8: Recessional

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15 February 2005

A German friend asked me if graphic novels were erotic. I said, “No, they’re neurotic.” So neurotic they’re even appearing on English-department syllabi. But their graphic nature has been overlooked. Drawing is suddenly making a comeback in literature, where they know their Kafka and Classics Illustrated, but maybe not Daumier or Saul Steinberg. More…

Originally published in Issue 2: Happiness

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14 February 2005

Naomi Klein, almost unique among political journalists, has struggled to make our post-9/11 moment continuous with the late 1990s. She has looked for the neoliberalism inside of neoconservatism. The degree to which she has succeeded tells us something about whether the movement for greater economic justice—under whatever name—can expect to have a future. More…

Originally published in Issue 2: Happiness

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14 February 2005

It’s true that Roth hasn’t been funny lately. The humor largely went out of his work after Sabbath’s Theater, when he turned to writing historical tragedies. But never has the humor been so sorely needed. More…

Originally published in Issue 2: Happiness

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14 February 2005

The book ends with a promise of direct political relevance, in which the foregoing analysis will help us to intervene in and fix the world. How? Never by restoring the power of parliaments, or the rule of law. It’s too late for that. Rather, by finding a way to return to a “pure” politics—divorced from law, from power, from states—as Benjamin once fantasized a “pure” language and “pure” violence. More…

Originally published in Issue 2: Happiness

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14 February 2005

If a hall of fame were established for contemporary book reviewers, Christopher Hitchens would very likely be its second inductee. (James Wood, of course, would be the first.) About an amazing range of literary and political figures he has supplied the basic information, limned the relevant controversies, hazarded an original perception or two, and thrown out half a dozen fine phrases. More…

Originally published in Issue 2: Happiness

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