Her characters sleepwalk to their certain fates through artificial pocket universes, each one seemingly constructed to satisfy the curiosity of an inhumane, omniscient narrator. Few writers have been so consistently and brilliantly unkind.
Are we now living in a golden age of the uncanny? The Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour suspects that we are, and she also suspects that our historical moment, populated as it is with alienating developments and surreal art, is key to understanding the work of Helen Oyeyemi. In the Times, Khakpour reviews Oyeyemi’s new novel. (You could also read both writers’ Year in Reading pieces.)
Because when you list your favorite characters, when you tell us who it is you love, are these the characters and people who are the most like you? I hope not. If you find yourself encouraged to love only characters who are just like you, I want you to worry about that; it means your art isn’t doing its job.
"Her fans have been described by The New York Times as ‘ardent, even cultish.’ And like the equally ardent and cultish readers of Joan Didion or David Foster Wallace, writers also distinctive and evocative and deadly funny or deadly sad, we the willfully misunderstood finally feel understood, and we crave her writing, almost narcissistically so. Because we each feel like she ‘gets us,’ we also feel — covetously and alone — that we ‘get her.’” On Lorrie Moore.
You may have heard that J.K. Rowling published a crime novel last year under the pen name Robert Galbraith. According to her alter ego’s website, Rowling will publish another novel as Galbraith, one featuring (again) the private investigator Cormoran Strike. (If you missed it, you should definitely read Elizabeth Minkel’s recent piece on Ron/Hermione and authorial regrets.)
As the lone mental hospital in The Magic Mountain referred to by its real name, the Hotel Schatzalp is a holy site for many Thomas Mann scholars and fans. At Page-Turner, Sally McGrane writes about the modern hotel, which employs a staff trained to deal with the occasional “literary fanatic.” (It also might be a good time to read Matthew Gallaway on Death in Venice.)
From the ages of nine to eleven, I worked as a spy. No one paid me, nor did I report my findings to any higher-ups. I discussed my cases with my partner, who went by code name Mountain Chicken Mother of the Buddha.
Boris knows that everyone around him will behave in wildly inappropriate ways. If they seem to be acting normal, he waits. At some point soon, they become blindingly drunk and try to hit something. Probably him.
“When a story is working, it feels like method acting. And I can tell when a story isn’t working — and those are the ones that didn’t make it into the book — because I’m still thinking so much more about the situation than the person. If the people aren’t living with me, then it doesn’t work.” Talking with Molly Antopol.