Ways of Being: New Immigrant Fiction

By Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review, March 10, 2016 Rushdie wrote that the migrant had to discover new ways to be human. These books recognize what a task that is; they recognize that migration can be, for some, an almost posthumous existence, that it awakens not only the desire to succeed butContinue reading “Ways of Being: New Immigrant Fiction”

‘The Wallcreeper’ by Nell Zink

By Parul Sehgal, The New York Times, Dec. 2, 2014 You don’t read Nell Zink so much as step into the ring with her. Every sentence is a jab or feint, rigged for surprise. Every word feels like a verb. The plot leaps will give you vertigo. Her debut novel, “The Wallcreeper,” is a veryContinue reading “‘The Wallcreeper’ by Nell Zink”

‘Citizen’ by Claudia Rankine

By Parul Sehgal, Bookforum, Dec/Jan 2015 Claudia Rankine’s Citizen is an anatomy of American racism in the new millennium, a slender, musical book that arrives with the force of a thunderclap. It’s a sequel of sorts to Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (2004), sharing its subtitle (An American Lyric) and ambidextrous approach: Both books combineContinue reading “‘Citizen’ by Claudia Rankine”

‘On Immunity’ by Eula Biss

By Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review, Oct. 3, 2014 Lucretius said to handle them with caution; Berkeley, not to handle them at all. Aristotle said that too many confound; Locke, that even one can “mislead the judgment”; Hobbes, that their natural end was “contention and sedition, or contempt.” Sontag said simply, theyContinue reading “‘On Immunity’ by Eula Biss”

On ‘Man and Beast’ by Mary Ellen Mark

By Parul Sehgal, New York Times Book Review, May 30, 2014 Over the last 50 years, Mary Ellen Mark has photographed twins, clowns, patients in a mental hospital, Ku Klux Klan members and Liza Minnelli. She likes to look at people who are used to being looked at, and she uses her camera like WonderContinue reading “On ‘Man and Beast’ by Mary Ellen Mark”

On ‘Can’t and Won’t’ by Lydia Davis

NPR.org, May 13, 2014, Listen on All Things Considered   In “Notes During Long Phone Conversation With Mother,” a woman listening to her mother express a desire for a cotton summer dress doodles variations of “cotton”: “nottoc,” “coontt,” “toonct,” “tocton,” almost palpably driving her pen into the pad. What is happening here? The word “cotton” disintegratesContinue reading “On ‘Can’t and Won’t’ by Lydia Davis”