The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India

Parul Sehgal, Bookforum Sept/Oct/Nov 2011  India’s economic ascent has launched a flurry of books, most of them touting neoliberalism’s power to not only propel the country out of poverty but to chase away its unsightly caste and class divisions, its nasty penchant for pogroms and female feticide. Siddhartha Deb’s very fine The Beautiful and the Damned tellsContinue reading “The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India”

Beautiful Monsters: A review of The Art of Cruelty

Bookforum, Summer 2o11 Take an apartment. Trash it thoroughly. Strip. Smear yourself with blood, bind your wrists, and bend over a table. Wait for your friends to discover your “corpse.” Too much? Take a city sidewalk. Take a bucket of “blood.” Splatter. Hide. Look at people looking at the “blood.” How much is too much?Continue reading “Beautiful Monsters: A review of The Art of Cruelty”

Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial

by Janet Malcolm (Yale Univ.) Parul Sehgal, Bookforum Apr. 12, 2011 Janet Malcolm is to malice what Wordsworth was to daffodils. In nine previous books, she’s so thoroughly, so indelibly investigated a certain breed of malice—the kind that festers in the writer-subject relationship—that it ought to bear her name. Malice is journalism’s “animating impulse,” sheContinue reading “Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial”

The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence

By Susie Linfield (University of Chicago) Parul Sehgal, Bookforum, December 2010 The girl in the photograph wears her black hair tucked behind her ears. Her part is slightly crooked, and there is a small mole low on her throat, right above the top button of her blouse. She might be anywhere between five and ten yearsContinue reading “The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence”

Saul Bellow: Letters

Edited by Benjamin Taylor, Viking, $35 Parul Sehgal, Time Out New York, November 5, 2010 Collected and annotated by Benjamin Taylor, these letters reveal in Saul Bellow a rare consistency: From the first letter in 1932 to the last in 2005, Bellow’s ex-wives accrue, his fortunes rise and fall, but his character, his generosity and obsession withContinue reading “Saul Bellow: Letters”

Cleopatra: A Life

by Stacy Schiff (Little, Brown) Parul Sehgal, Bookforum, November 2010 They called her the Queen of Kings. She built a kingdom into a mighty empire that stretched down the shimmering eastern coastline of the Mediterranean. She married—and murdered—her two younger brothers. She bankrolled Cesar and Antony and bore them both sons. She was worshipped asContinue reading “Cleopatra: A Life”

The Emperor of All Maladies

By Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner) Parul Sehgal, O Magazine, November 2010 For 4,000 years, cancer has stalked us. Even as cholera and tuberculosis—the scourges of the 19th century—wilted in the wake of medical advancements and vigorous public health campaigns, the cancer cell continued to bloom. Ubiquitous but taboo (The New York Times refused to print theContinue reading “The Emperor of All Maladies”

How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior

By Laura Kipnis (Holt) Parul Sehgal, Bookforum Sept. 20, 2010 Everything you think you know about James Frey is wrong. You’re wrong about Eliot Spitzer, too, and Linda Tripp, and any number of those nutty and libidinous rogues in our public pillories. According to Laura Kipnis’s coruscating new study of scandal, what we talk aboutContinue reading “How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior”

The Pregnant Widow

By Martin Amis (Knopf, $26.95) Parul Sehgal, Time Out New York / Issue 763 : May 13–19, 2010 For all its ambition and verbal pyrotechnics, Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow is basically a book about boys and girls—or rather, one boy and many girls. It’s Amis’s most nakedly autobiographical novel since The Rachel Papers, and when theContinue reading “The Pregnant Widow”

About a Mountain

By John D’Agata. Norton, $23.95 Parul Sehgal, Time Out New York / Issue 750 : Feb 8–17, 2010 John D’Agata’s About a Mountain is, among other things, a study of political myopia, nuclear threat and activism coalescing at Yucca Mountain, where, until very recently, the federal government planned to entomb high-level nuclear waste. If he hadContinue reading “About a Mountain”