By Zadie Smith Parul Sehgal, Bookforum Sept/Oct/Nov 2012 Pity; they used to be such nice girls. Leah Hanwell and Keisha Blake grew up together in a grim housing estate in North West London. They acquired university degrees, good jobs, political convictions, pretty husbands. And they’re miserable. Now in their mid-thirties, they’re pickling in bile andContinue reading “NW”

Lionel Asbo: State of England

By Martin Amis Parul Sehgal, NPR.org, August 29, 2012 Too much is made of literature’s ennobling qualities. There are those of us who come to books for the debasement and danger, for Hannibal and Humbert. For Faulkner’s Popeye and Hedda Gabler. We want to meet the monsters. And monsters are Martin Amis’ specialty. Amis trafficsContinue reading “Lionel Asbo: State of England”

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti

Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review, June 15, 2012   “A Case of Exploding Mangoes,” Hanif’s first novel, drew favorable comparisons to “Catch-22” — both are stinging sendups of life in the air forces, but the similarities run deeper. Like Joseph Heller, Hanif specializes in a kind of horror and humor joined atContinue reading “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti”

My Poets

By Maureen McLane Parul Sehgal, Bookforum, May 2012 Readers are not created equal. Frances Ferguson observed, rather dolorously, that the “reader can only read the texts that say what he already knows,” but let’s be frank: There are gifted—or maybe just thirstier—readers among us who, by dint of stamina or plain need, won’t be stymiedContinue reading “My Poets”

By Blood

Parul Sehgal, New York Times Book Review, Feb. 24, 2012 Pythagoras said the world was made of numbers; Democritus insisted upon atoms; Empedocles, four primordial elements — fire, air, water, earth. But Plato loved triangles. In his schema, matter was made up of triangles in kaleidoscopic configurations, triangles themselves divisible into tinier triangles. Triangles begatContinue reading “By Blood”

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

By Jeanette Winterson Parul Sehgal, Bookforum Magazine, February 2012 Isaiah Berlin split intellectuals into two groups: foxes, who know a great deal about many things, and hedgehogs, who know one big thing. But I wonder if there isn’t a third type, too, mysterious and misunderstood: the individual who knows a great deal about one thing—andContinue reading “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?”

Salvage the Bones

Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review, Dec. 30 2011 “Salvage the Bones,” the 2011 National Book Award winner for fiction, is a taut, wily novel, smartly plotted and voluptuously written. It feels fresh and urgent, but it’s an ancient, archetypal tale. Think of Noah or Gilgamesh or any soggy group of humans andContinue reading “Salvage the Bones”

A Year in Reading: Parul Sehgal

Parul Sehgal, The Millions, December 16, 2011 There were many books I admired this year, books I read and reread and recommended. Salvage the Bones is every bit as good as they say it is. And there were groundbreaking narrative nonfiction books about India: Siddhartha Deb’s The Beautiful and the Damned, Arundhati Roy’s Walking with the Comrades, andContinue reading “A Year in Reading: Parul Sehgal”

Hemingway’s Boat

Parul Sehgal, The Plain Dealer, September 18, 2011   He’s been labeled a brute, a bully and a bore. A heartless seducer of women and a closeted homosexual. An absurd cartoon of hypermasculinity and a transvestite. His critics and rivals, his children and grandchildren have had their say in memoirs. His fiction has been combedContinue reading “Hemingway’s Boat”


Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review, Sept. 16, 2011  Rehan Tabassum is in a bad way. Although, strictly speaking, the trouble isn’t of his making. He’s just got that kind of family — prone to falling in love with the servants, scheming against one another, messing with the wrong fundamentalist and leaving sensitiveContinue reading “Noon”