On ‘Living With a Wild God’ by Barbara Ehrenreich

By Parul Sehgal, New York Times Book Review, April 25, 2014 In May of 1959, Barbara Ehrenreich was taken into the mountains in Northern California by a boy looking for dynamite. They spent the night in the car, and in the morning, she wandered into town on foot. It happened then and there — anContinue reading “On ‘Living With a Wild God’ by Barbara Ehrenreich”

On ‘Bark’ by Lorrie Moore

Bookforum Feb/Mar 2014 issue The known risks of laughter, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, include dislocated jaws, cardiac arrhythmia, urinary incontinence, emphysema, and spontaneous perforation of the esophagus. None of this, I suspect, will be news to readers of Lorrie Moore, who has never taken laughter lightly. In herContinue reading “On ‘Bark’ by Lorrie Moore”

On ‘The Wind in the Willows’

NPR. org, December 27, 2013 Listen on All Things Considered We want simple things from books in winter — or at least I do. I want a vindication of my desire to loaf, laze, retreat from the world, the assurances, in short, of The Wind in the Willows, whose edicts are sane and just: “NoContinue reading “On ‘The Wind in the Willows’”

On ‘Art as Therapy’ by Alan de Botton

By Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review, December 13, 2013 Who’s afraid of Alain de Botton? At 43, he’s already an elder in the church of self-help, the master of spinning sugary “secular sermons” out of literature (“How Proust Can Change Your Life”), philosophy (“The Consolations of Philosophy”), architecture (“The Architecture of Happiness”).Continue reading “On ‘Art as Therapy’ by Alan de Botton”

On ‘The Twenty-Seventh City’ by Jonathan Franzen

By Parul Sehgal, The Slate Book Review, Nov. 8, 2013 Some books ought to be allowed to molder in peace. Jonathan Franzen’s first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City, published in 1988, is a paranoid conspiracy novel, the kind of thing that doesn’t age well—and hasn’t. It has earned some rest. But it’s been trotted out forContinue reading “On ‘The Twenty-Seventh City’ by Jonathan Franzen”

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore

Linda Leavell, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 480 pages. $30. By Parul Sehgal, Bookforum, September 2013 Call it the Curious Case of Marianne Moore. She was an American Athena, spawned by no particular school but championed by every major poet of her generation. Her poems are Wonderlands populated by spiny creatures and pools of sudden malice,Continue reading “Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore”

Unmastered: A Book on Desire Most Difficult to Tell

By Parul Sehgal, Slate, June 7, 2013 Angel asks the same questions we always ask about desire: Why do I like what I like? Am I wrong to like what I like? and Why is it so hard to ask these questions anyway? But she poses them stylishly. The book edges forward in fragments—aphorisms, accusations,Continue reading “Unmastered: A Book on Desire Most Difficult to Tell”

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

By Mohsin Hamid Parul Sehgal, New York Times Book Review, March 29, 2014 “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” begins under a bed. With you — yes, you — under a bed. Once you quit cowering, you’ll be the hero of this novel written in the second person, although there’s nothing remotely heroicContinue reading “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia”

The Wayward Essay: ‘The Fun Stuff,’ by James Wood, and More

By Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review, Dec. 28, 2012   In its quality of attention and faith in the salvific power of the right words in the right order, the essay resembles nothing so much as a secular prayer. That, at least, was the original point. The essay has proved wayward, whichContinue reading “The Wayward Essay: ‘The Fun Stuff,’ by James Wood, and More”