A flickering between truth and fiction

At one point in Ben Lerner’s new book, “10:04,” the narrator visits the studio space of his lover, Alena. Alena’s latest project is curating the “Institute for Totaled Art,” a conceptual art show composed of pieces that, because of damage that renders

Review: Murakami has nothing to say in latest novel

Here’s a joke: what’s the name of that one Haruki Murakami novel with the aimless, somewhat developmentally-arrested thirty-something protagonist who likes pasta and jazz, and for whom women are those things attached to breasts? Murakami is not known for his artistic breadth,


A tale of two time periods

At first glance, Donna Tartt seems to be the anti-Bret Easton Ellis. The two were friends, and dated briefly, as undergraduates at Bennington College. At school, Ellis and Tartt shared the manuscripts of their debuts-in-progress, manuscripts that would become “Less Than Zero”

Morrison lectures, reads to delighted full house

On April 7th, Toni Morrison spoke to a packed house – so packed that many faculty were stranded outside, forced to watch her speak on the monitors. Her reception was understandable. At 83, Morrison is one of the last twentieth-century literary heavyweights,

Pablo Villalobos’ static, indigestible new novel

Faced with the spiritually truncating demands of modernity, the twentieth-century idealist, as described by André Breton in the “First Manifesto of Surrealism,” was susceptible to complete enervation: “Menace accumulates, one yields, one abandons a part of the terrain to be conquered. That


Book review: The Franzen project

Jonathan Franzen’s reception at Swarthmore last spring was lukewarm. He spoke fatalistically of the social impact of fiction and disavowed the readings of his books that would point to any social messages. When he admitted that the one explicit goal of his

No common grief in “Levels of Life”

In 2011, Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for “The Sense of an Ending.”  It was the first novel he had published since his wife’s death. Only 150 pages long, it is an exercise in brevity and restraint. In part one,