SpeakEasy Blog

Seriously Questioning… Mitchell S. Jackson

The recipient of a Whiting Award in 2016, Mitchell S. Jackson has a bright future. When Roxane Gay reviewed The Residue Years, his 2013 debut novel (or “novel“, as the cover has it; it’s also sort of a memoir), she picked out its language, “flying off the page with percussive energy“, its “warmth and wit”, “a hard-won… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Idra Novey

To translate is not just to render in a different language but (done well) to ventriloquize the soul of another. It is to understand undercurrents transcendently, better to realize meaning. Translation isn’t just Babel fishing; it’s screen printing, recreation, midwifery. Idra Novey, the Brooklyn-based novelist and poet who’s translated Clarice Lispector, Paulo Henriques Britto, and Lascano… Continue Reading

Space Oddity

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space Janna Levin Knopf, 2016; 256pp The romance of the cosmos is the subject of Black Hole Blues. The romance of bodies of unimaginable size colliding and merging darkly and silently in space. Romance, yes — but also the knotty bureaucracy that has hampered and enabled scientists for the… Continue Reading

Review: The Sellout, by Paul Beatty

The Sellout Paul Beatty Farrar, Straus and Giroux (hardcover) / Picador (paperback), 2015; 304pp Entering the world like the bastard love-child of a Chris Rock routine and a Thomas Pynchon novel, The Sellout is a sensational satire on race relations in the United States. Its outrageous plot, which reintroduces segregation to a forgotten ghetto in Los Angeles County, motors along… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Richard Cohen

In How To Write Like Tolstoy: A Journey Into the Minds of Our Greatest Writers (Random House, 2016), Richard Cohen shares with readers the magpied loot of a lifetime of reading. Packed with examples from the best of world literature and interspersed with anecdotes from his one-time day job as an editor (he’s worked with Fay Weldon, Kingsley Amis, Simon Winchester,… Continue Reading

Agnus Dei

Sweet Lamb of Heaven Lydia Millet W.W. Norton & Company, 2016; 256pp Here’s our set-up. After the birth of Anna and Ned’s child, a “ragged, uninvited disruption” enters Anna’s life: she starts to hear voices. Ned is distant — he’d not wanted to go through with the pregnancy anyway — and Anna is left alone to… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Madeleine Thien

Last month, Madeleine Thien‘s third novel was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. Do Not Say We Have Nothing (W.W. Norton), which is set in both present-day Vancouver and the China of Mao and Tiananmen Square, captivates from its opening paragraph: “In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage,… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… James Rebanks

“Thousand shades of grey”. Picture from James Rebanks’s hugely popular Twitter feed, @herdyshepherd1. “When English people dream of a rural arcadia, they usually dream of our landscape,” writes James Rebanks in The Shepherd’s View, just published as an attractive, colorful hardback by Flatiron Books. His latest account of farm life in the Lake District is… Continue Reading

“Oh Beauty, You Are the Light of the World!”

The Light of the World: A Memoir Elizabeth Alexander Grand Central Publishing, 2015; 240pp Elizabeth Alexander‘s lovely, sad memoir is a tale of two thunderbolts. The first: love at first sight — “A torque inside my stomach, the science of love” — between Alexander and her husband-to-be, the Eritrean artist Ficre Ghebreyesus. The second: Ficre’s… Continue Reading

The Eye of the Blackbird

Thirteen Ways of Looking Colum McCann Random House, 2015; 256pp The first words we read in Colum McCann’s 2015 collection of stories are Wallace Stevens’s: “Among twenty snowy mountains / The only moving thing / Was the eye of the blackbird.” Stevens’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” provides the epigraphs for each of… Continue Reading

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