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Discreet 16: On Suzanne Lindon’s “Spring Blossom”

FOR ABOUT TWO WEEKS at the start of summer, a specific tree known commonly as the linden, or sometimes the “basswood” or “Tilia,” blooms in Paris, filling the avenues and boulevards with a pungent, and some would say indecently carnal, scent. In appearance, the tree is innocent enough: dressed in an emollient plumage of bright, green leaves and furry,...

“Nation-Building Is No Mean Task”: A Conversation with Khin Zaw Win

KHIN ZAW WIN was imprisoned from 1994 to 2005 for what the government called “seditious writings” and his human rights work in Myanmar, formerly Burma. Now he has reason to be worried again, but he is refusing to stay quiet. Another coup took place in his home country on February 1, 2021. The armed forces declared the previous fall’s general election...

“We Need Wholesale Decolonization”: A Conversation with Grieve Chelwa

IT IS EASIER to imagine cultural and political decolonization than to think of the process in terms of money flows and economic structures. In order to understand the “defund” aspect of our triad of revolutionary action, I spoke to economist Grieve Chelwa. Born and brought up in Lusaka, Zambia, and schooled in South Africa, Chelwa is self-admittedly...

“Scientific Nightmare”: The Backstory of the “DSM”

“TO DEFINE TRUE MADNESS,” said Shakespeare’s Polonius in Hamlet, “What is’t but to be nothing else but mad?” He may well have been right. But that doesn’t seem to be the view of the specialists paid to treat the mentally ill. For more than four decades, leading American psychiatrists have been obsessed with the problem of diagnosis. The ever-fatter...

Storyteller Strategist: A Conversation with Susan Orlean

SUSAN ORLEAN, a longtime staff writer at The New Yorker and author of eight beloved nonfiction books — including a biography of the canine actor Rin Tin Tin — understands that animals are complex and captivating: “They seem to have something in common with us, and yet they’re alien, unknowable, familiar but mysterious.” Orlean’s On Animals, a collection...

Control Everything: On Hartmut Rosa’s “The Uncontrollability of the World”

LAST SPRING, SOME PUBLISHING HOUSES began asking authors of soon-to-be-published books to add prefaces, scattered tidbits, or even entire chapters relating their work to COVID-19 and/or racial issues. For most, including myself, this was a big stretch, but we tried. Hartmut Rosa either was never asked or did not agree. There is not a single reference...

Ghosts of Grief: On S. A. Cosby’s “Razorblade Tears”

ON THE SURFACE, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a crime novel about channeling grief to exact revenge. However, right underneath there is much more. For starters, it’s a timely narrative about coming to terms with Otherness, accepting difference, recognizing that love is love, and the devastating effects not doing those things can have on families....

Love Objects: On the Poetry and Prose of Aaron Kunin

“LOVE, WHAT DO I think / to say. I cannot say it,” writes Robert Creeley in the title poem of For Love (1962), far and away one of the most influential books of American poetry to emerge during the postwar era. In a characteristic move, Creeley develops the poem around what the poem cannot say; gestures of refusal and uncertainty abound, with the poet...

A Language for Herself: A Conversation with Ye Chun

I WAS ONLY pages into Hao, the debut short story collection by Ye Chun, when I knew I was reading a master of the form. That knowledge had been building up with each of her glimmering, knife-sharp sentences, but the moment where it clicked for me was just over halfway through the story “Stars” (about a grad student learning to speak again after a stroke),...

A Talent for Insanity: On M. E. White’s “In the Balance”

IN 2016, I was wandering around cold, damp Paris in an altered state from jet lag and sleep deprivation. It was my first time there, and I was making an obligatory pilgrimage to Shakespeare and Company. In the intimate annex adjacent to the main bookstore, the antiquarian section, I bought a 1967 issue of The Paris Review as a souvenir. I chose it,...

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