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Uneasy Temporariness: Rosecrans Baldwin’s Los Angeles

ONCE UPON A TIME, Los Angeles was a product in need of a buyer. The former Mexican colony was still dusty and underdeveloped decades after San Francisco had become the financial and cultural capital of the West. So, the advertisements began. California for Health, Pleasure and Residence, a book published in 1872 by the journalist Charles Nordhoff, was...

The Politics of Humane Violence

WHILE MISSILES rained down on Gaza in May, the shields went up again. “Hamas is using children as human shields,” reported the Israel Defense Forces on its Twitter feed, a claim hotly disputed by the other side, whose military character is inherently civilian and geographically inseparable from schools, hospitals, and the ordinary flow of Palestinian...

“He Soars So Incredibly High”: A Conversation about Robert Walser with Susan Bernofsky

THIS YEAR SEES the release of Susan Bernofsky’s long-awaited biography of Robert Walser, Clairvoyant of the Small, from Yale University Press. Long Walser’s primary English-language translator, and also a leading scholar of the great Swiss modernist, Bernofsky now becomes his first 21st-century biographer. This volume will come as a revelation to those...

Octavia Butler and the Pimply, Pompous Publisher

SCIENCE FICTION WRITER Octavia Estelle Butler, who passed away 15 years ago, would have celebrated her 74th birthday on June 22 of this year. She was a prolific author of 15 novels and the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” I knew Octavia when I was a teenager. Although my behavior with her was appalling...

The Fallacies of “Progress”: On Leonard Greenspoon’s “Jewish Bible Translations”

THIS SURVEY of a vast terrain begins where its author’s involvement with the subject began. After entering Harvard to study Classics in 1970, he transferred to the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, where he took a seminar on the Book of Joshua taught by Protestant theologian G. Ernest Wright. Wright regaled him with stories of...

Our World, Our People: Nationalism and Sovereign Power in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”

BEFORE ITS DEBUT in March, no one really knew what to make of the new miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (FATWS). We knew it would follow closely on the heels of the events of Avengers: Endgame and would to some degree concern the legacy of Captain America. Early in the show, we are introduced to Isaiah Bradley, a Black super soldier covered...

If It Isn’t Broken: A Conversation with Justine Bateman

JUSTINE BATEMAN HAS LIVED in the public eye for nearly 40 years. During those years, she’s been a lot of things — actress, writer, producer, director, designer, pilot, wife, mother — but to me she is first and foremost the author whose debut book, Fame: The Hijacking of Reality, taught me to ask myself, whenever I’m stuck in my life, “What are you afraid...

Feral Monstrosity: On Rivers Solomon’s “Sorrowland”

I’LL ADMIT THAT I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland. I anticipated a certain amount of, well, sorrow, alongside speculative elements. But familiarity with Solomon (fae/faer/faers)’s previous work led me to believe this would not be simply (for lack of a better phrase) torture porn. In literary circles, we often talk...

The Ecstasies of Arthur Machen

WHEN I MOVED to London in the mid-’80s, I had no idea I was following so closely in the footsteps of Arthur Machen (pronounced Mack-in, as in Kraken), a writer I knew nothing about at the time. In fact, if I possessed any sympathy for metaphysics, I might believe there was some unspoken occult connection that led me, back then, to unknowingly relive...

Rivka Galchen’s “Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch”

Subscribe on Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by Rivka Galchen, whose new novel, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch, is set in the Holy Roman Empire in the 17th century, amid the plague and the Thirty Years’ War, and incorporates actual translated historical documents. It fictionalizes the real-life story of...

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