Skip to main content


Book Notes

CURRENT EVENTS Water for Sale, by Fredrik Segerfeldt. Cato Institute, June 2005. $12.95 The Cato Institute can be depended upon to publish work which genuflects before the market, abhors government regulation, and searches for situations in which th [...]

The Tortoise and the Hare; Or, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, and the Vagaries of Fiction Writing

In 1959, a thirty-one-year-old writer named Cynthia Ozick was hard at work, in her determined tortoise-like way, on an ambitious novel that, seven years later, would be published as Trust; and also in 1959, a young, in-your-face writer named Philip Roth published Goodbye, Columbus, and Five Short Stories. Not since Norman Mailer set the literary world on its ear with The Naked and the Dead (1948) had a collection of stories so changed the American cultural landscape. Roth was surely the hare of Aesop’s tortoise-and-hare fable, a young man out of the literary gate before most of his competitors had made it to the track. Not only did Roth speed off with what, in those days, was a prestigious National Book Award, but he also set into motion debates about tradition, responsibility, and the individual artist that would dog his heels from then on—book after book, decade after decade.

Book Notes

EDITOR’S PICKAn Unexpected Life, by Joseph Blotner. LSU, March 2005. $29.95 Joseph Blotner will be remembered as a giant of American literary scholarship. His editions of William Faulkner’s works, especially the Uncollected Stories and Selected L [...]

Dead Letter

Coachy, to whom Papa Toussaint had given the two letters for Paul Louverture, led their way south from Point Samana toward Santo Domingo City. Coachy had been to that place before, not so long ago, when Papa Toussaint had sent his army to the Spanish side of the island for the first time, but Guiaou had not. He had not been to Point Samana either before that day, when Papa Toussaint had brought them to look at the ships of the French.

The Contest

There comes a time when Elk Tooth residents no longer take an interest in winter. Toward the end of March the count of semis tipped over by the wind fails to amuse and driving the long way around to anywhere—Angle Iron pass is closed even in a mild winter—has become an odious chore. Elk Tooth residents can take no more of reality. They embrace fads and fancies, and fortunes ride on rash wagers.

The Futurist

The Futurist never saw it coming. But now that he thinks of it, it’s not surprising. Not surprising that she’s telling him in the most intentionally archaic way: a pen-and-ink note slipped into his state-of-the-art carry-on. Written in past tense [...]

A Private Experience

Chika climbs in through the store window first and then holds the shutter as the woman climbs in after her. The store looks like it was deserted long before the riots started; the empty rows of wooden shelves are covered in yellow dust, as are the metal paint containers stacked in a corner.

Lima, Peru, July 28, 1979

This story has three characters. Three important ones, that is; three worth mentioning. Others may pop in here and there, but they don't mean anything. There is the police officer, pointing his gun at me. Manolo Carrión, or so he told me from the barrel of his gun; he had a small mouth touched with a wisp of a moustache and dark eyes hidden beneath a heavy brow. He frightened me. I can admit that now.

It Couldn’t Be More Beautiful

It is Thanksgiving, the great day of dinner, of Dockers and dress shirts and marshmallow-sweetened squash. This year we are forgoing our standard slow graze on the home front to spend the day with my sister and her boyfriend's family, meeting them for the first time—on this, a National Holiday. The whole situation has got my parents up in arms. My mother likes to do the cooking herself, and my father has been ranting about the traffic the whole way out to Long Island. I know the truth is that my sister is only home from college for the weekend and my parents would rather we have Carly all to ourselves.

Can Stories Matter?

This issue owes its origins to Michael Chabon—though I'm sure he doesn't know it. Chabon stirred controversy last year by confessing in his introduction to McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales that he had grown bored with "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story."