Claire Vaye Watkins photographed by Heike Steinweg
Born in the Owens Valley, an arid region east of the Sierra Nevada that was notoriously tapped for water by William Mulholland in the early 1900s to build the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Claire Vaye Watkins recognized one glaring hole with her portrayal of the West in her critically acclaimed debut collection of stories. “When I finished Battleborn, I had this nagging feeling that I hadn’t actually written about the American West at all because I hadn’t written about water,” ...
Julia Elliott photographed by JS Dennis
We live in a world in which the technological and the human increasingly merge, whether bioenhancements for athletic performance or high-tech replacements for worn body parts. We’re becoming baggy monsters, of a sort, 21st century Frankensteins.
Julia Elliott’s debut novel, The New and Improved Romie Futch, is its own baggy monster—with a literal biohazard monster, Hogzilla, at its carefully plotted core. But for all the postmodern genre-busting elements Elliott throws into her novel, at its center is the ...
Our preview of books first published overseas
The Man Who Spoke Snakish
Trans. by Moseley, Christopher
U.S.: Nov. 3, 2015 | Black Cat
Estonia: 2007 | Eesti Keele Sihtasutus
Forest dwellers speak Snakish to command the animals in this highly readable and humorous fantasy portrayal of medieval Estonia. Leemet is one of the last speakers of this ancient, sibilant language as hunter-gatherers leave the forest in droves to build villages, till fields, eat tasteless bread, and worship Jesus. When a giant louse takes a swim in ...
Lori Ostlund photographed by Dennis Hearne
Lori Ostlund doesn’t need to know authors’ lives to appreciate their fiction—but it won’t stop her from wondering.
“I don’t know that I want to know [their biography] beforehand,” Ostlund says, “but as I’m reading I might go to Google and wonder if they lived in a certain setting, what’s this about, what’s that about? Oh, I wonder.”
You don’t need to know Ostlund’s origins to appreciate the keen realism and legato prose of After the Parade ...
Our survey of notable small press books being published this fall
As I mentioned last month in our Fall Preview issue, this is going to be a season of big books by famous authors: Margaret Atwood, Geraldine Brooks, Jonathan Franzen, John Irving, David Mitchell, Salman Rushdie, and Jane Smiley, among others, will have new books on the shelves. But there are also gems among the less-famous; here are excerpts from reviews of some of our favorite under-the-radar books:
Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came From Woolworths (New York Review Books, Oct. 27 ...
Jill Bialosky photographed by Catherine Sebastian
An artist’s life isn’t easy. Creativity may be a gift, but when creativity becomes a profession—the means by which an individual is judged—the gift can seem more like a cross to bear.
Jill Bialosky, a poet, memoirist, novelist, and executive editor at Norton, is intimately aware of the pressures of making a living as an artist. In her latest novel, The Prize, appreciation for art and the beauty of creative expression are pitted against the darker forces of power, fame ...
A story that’s sadly relevant again
One hundred years ago, on a rainy morning, a young man named Gregor Samsa awoke from a night of troubled dreams to discover that he had been turned into a monstrous creature. Perhaps he was a beetle, perhaps a cockroach: in the German, Franz Kafka made Gregor Samsa into an ungeheueres Ungeziefer, meaning something like a “horrible, dirty, monstrous bug.”
Vladimir Nabokov, who was an eminent entomologist as well as novelist, guessed that Kafka meant some sort of beetle ...
Valeria Luiselli photographed by Alfredo Pelcastre
Often we think of experimental fiction in terms of hell-raising hipness. So what then to make of a writer like Mexico’s Valeria Luiselli? Though playful and unruly, her fiction feels surprisingly warm and old-fashioned, reminding me of the modernists that inform her books. After all, her first novel, 2014’s Faces in the Crowd, took its title from a famous Ezra Pound poem (you know the one) and evolved in part from, as she told Michael Silverblatt at Bookwork, an imagistic ...