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Criticism

Recent Issue

<I>Having and Being Had</I>. By Eula Biss.  Riverhead, 2020.  336pp. HB, $26.

Self-Portrait of an Artist

  If the case of John Berger’s debut novel, A Painter of Our Time, still enrages sixty-three years after its release in 1958, a writer’s wrath especially might be attended by the smallest, wistful pang. An idea-driven meditation on the rol [...]

Children of Doubt

Pascal’s wager—that saw of Christian apologetics—is conventionally understood to demonstrate that human beings deny the Christian God’s existence at the risk of perdition. The seventeenth-century French polymath Blaise Pascal weighed the infinite torment awaiting unbelievers under God’s Providence against the finite pleasures of living as an atheist in a godless universe. He concluded, regardless of the deity’s actual existence, that the only rational choice is to adopt cautious belief.


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<i>Luster</i>. By Raven Leilani. FSG, 2020. 240p. HB, $26

Sex in the City

We are in the midst of a publishing renaissance of novels about blackness; of literary novels with black protagonists; of novels about race and of novels published by black authors. This wave of publications follows a similar black-literature boom in [...]

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<i>Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA</i>. By Amaryllis Fox. Knopf, 2020.240. HB, $26.95.

A Most Wanted Woman

March 2, 2020

 Despite President Trump’s fatuous protests about the “Deep State,” we seem to be in a similar place with respect to entertainment relating to the intelligence community, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in particular.

Making Sausages: Images of Governance

March 14, 2014

During recent snowbound days, I indulged in a bout of binging the second season of House of Cards, the celebrated political drama starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and a brilliantly cast supporting ensemble. Actually, I did the same binge with the [...]

A Gun and a Girl: The Case for Hard Case Crime

October 4, 2013

Any scan of the bestseller lists shows a national book culture awash in pulp. But all those hungry zombies, vengeful angels, vampire lovers, scrappy postapocalyptic teens, and fairy princess-warriors with wicked blades and toned physiques bear litt [...]