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These things would be easy to parody, but, distinctively, The Big House is a brave celebration of family. I want to say brave, because, speaking as one myself, it’s hard not to sound clichéd and satirical about that particular brand of American, the Northeast WASP. Though as a breed they’ve had their day in the literary sun, at the hands of such masters as John Cheever and Robert Lowell (who famously coined the term “Mayflower screwballs” in one of his poems), their struggles often appear as those of loafers in loafers, a repressed gang of lock-jawed yacht-clubbers with drinking problems and names like Buffy.
The Bellow that emerges here is a surprisingly mellow guy, almost chastened with age, still disinterested to the point of subtle racism and misogyny in the world outside his class, but capacious within the folds of twentieth-century Jewish experience.
Carolyn See writes about California in a way that gets to the heart of a native: what it’s like to drive down Wilshire Boulevard on a foggy midnight. The preternaturally cheerful Brentwood matrons who live to play tennis and have the current PC bumper sticker on their Mercedes station wagon.
Chris Beha introduces the work of Mavis Gallant, a writer whose short stories are reliably sublime, in today’s Lost & Found from the vault. Read more of Chris’s own most excellent prose (if we do say so ourselves) in his debut novel, What Happened to Sophie Wilder, out from Tin House Books this June. I [...]
Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday, May 5th. In case you, like me, are in the process of considering how to get the most bang for your (unspent) buck on this holiest of days, today’s Lost & Found brings a reading recommendation from super-cartoonist Karl Kesel. Here’s Kesel on Jack Kirby’s Challengers of the [...]
Two hundred years before Dante spun his poetry of the inferno, a monk named Marcus wrote his own vision of an absurd and ghoulish hell–one perhaps accessible only through the absurd and ghoulish medium of Middle English. Here’s Leslie Jamison on “The Vision of Tundale,” weird syllables, lost infernos, and hell in translation. People enjoy [...]
Knut Hamsun was both Nobel laureate and Nazi collaborator; the protagonist of his novel, Hunger, is both suffering artist par excellence and repellent misanthrope. Don Waters takes on these incongruities, and the distance between the real and romanticized writing life, in this Lost & Found from our vault. In my early twenties, I was introduced to the Norwegian [...]
It might be a stretch to call Travels with Charley a lost book, but it’s certainly one that speaks to the tradition of getting lost in the search for America. Here’s Tom Grimes on Steinbeck’s troubled vision of America as seen from the open road. Does any writer ever truly capture an era or become [...]
Where’s the joy in a modern balloon compared to one fashioned from the bladder of the family pig? Here’s our own Brenda Shaughnessy on the “sublime humility” of life in Laura Ingall Wilder’s Little House books. I’ll start by saying I will never apologize for loving Laura Ingalls Wilder’s vivid recollections of life in pioneer [...]
It is “narrative adventure” as much as cultural anthropology, a book in which extraordinary historic, topographic, and linguistic details mix up with tales of moonshine, mean-minded pigs, laurel hunts, bear escapades.
I already had a Hollywood notion of Isadora: that would be Vanessa Redgrave in all her mid-1960s Blowup beauty, cavorting around Europe and Russia in what looked like a sheer tablecloth. But I had grown up in the sixties, so Isadora seemed less like an iconoclast—you know, an Independent Woman who lived for Art, believed in free love, shunned marriage, had children anyway, was politically committed—and more like one of my babysitters.
Guinea Pig Zero published firsthand reports on the things potential guinea pigs really wanted to know about the business of human research: how much the studies paid, how bad the food was, whether a research unit employed phlebotomists who had trouble hitting a vein.
Tin House’s new book Hot Art examines the shady underworld of art theft; today’s Lost & Found from David Lehman raises the question of how to steal art that’s naught but air. Here’s Lehman on Charles Willefort’s The Burnt Orange Heresy. You can read The Burnt Orange Heresy as either a murder mystery or a [...]
In the early 1970s, the polymorphously great Swiss writer Max Frisch, renowned in this country, though not renowned enough, for novels such as I’m Not Stiller, Man in the Holocene and Homo Faber—flew to New York to embark upon one of those humiliating treks through the border region of celebrity known as the book tour.
But many years later, when I enrolled in a PhD program in Russian literature, I decided to remain focused and serious, immersing myself in Tolstoy and Gogol and Babel, getting better acquainted with Russian writers I might have already studied had I never emigrated from Moscow at the age of seven. Imagine my guilty pleasure, then, at discovering, among the Dostoyevskys and Bulgakovs, an author who spearheaded the modern Russian best seller, the Judith Krantz of fin de siècle Russia—Anastasya Verbitskaya.
The guy kept writing, and he kept not dying. When Lee Meriwether was born in 1862, Jefferson Davis dandled him on his knee; he remembered fleeing with his family from Sherman’s invading troops. By the time he died in 1966—just a year after writing his final memoir—the Beatles were recording Revolver. Meriwether’s grandmother spoke of meeting George Washington, and yet today there are still people who remember Lee as an old man.
I had discovered an American Methuselah: quite possibly the only writer whose memory spans the entire history of the republic.
Anna Keesey brings us to The Mountain Lion, Jean Stafford’s brutal tale of childhood’s end on a Colorado ranch, in today’s Lost & Found from our vault. Since this piece first ran in 2002, the novel has been reissued by New York Review Books. At the end of her life Jean Stafford looked like a [...]
Between its recent return to print and its 2010 Coen brothers adaptation, True Grit has been feeling the love as of late. This wasn’t always the case. This prescient Lost & Found from 2004 sees Cassandra Cleghorn appreciating Portis’s American epic before it was cool, before it was even cooler. (You can’t get much cooler [...]
Today’s Lost & Found is a present to Edgar Allan Poe in anticipation of his 203rd birthday this Thursday. After all, what might please Poe more than the peculiar gift of a one-off writing doppelganger, shadowing his work from half a world and a whole century away? Here’s A. N. Devers on the uncanny Edogawa [...]
Dani Shapiro charts the brutal course of Janet Hobhouse’s The Furies in this Lost & Found from our archives. Janet Hobhouse had published a few novels before The Furies, and she had something of a presence as a critic in the 1980s art world, but she was more of a figure than a writer in [...]
David Gates takes on In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods, Galen Rowell’s account of the 1975 K2 disaster, in this Lost and Found from Tin House’s second issue. Since I’ve never climbed a mountain and never hankered to, it’s weird that I obsessively read and reread mountaineering books. I’d guess what I’m hankering [...]
Just in time for New Year’s Eve revelry, Daniel Handler raises a toast to the cocktail and Bernard DeVoto’s classic treatise on drink culture, The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto.
In today’s Lost & Found, former Tin House staffer Diana Fox finds worthy holiday reading in Dodie Smith’s cult favorite I Capture the Castle. Austen fans, when the spine on your copy of Northanger Abbey finally goes, turn here. Dodie Smith is not an unknown writer, but few people recognize her name as belonging to [...]
Before David Sedaris endured Santaland, Patricia Highsmith served on the front lines of holiday retail. Peter Behrens looks at Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, the novel germinated by her experience, in today’s Lost & Found. Is Patricia Highsmith the most unjustifiably ignored American novelist of her post-war generation? In the United Sates, Highsmith’s reputation rests [...]
Kim Adrian unpacks Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H. in today’s Lost & Found. Lispector would’ve turned 91 this coming Saturday. We recommend marking the occasion with cake, but devotees that go the cockroach route have our respect–from a great, great distance. Clarice Lispector’s novel The Passion According to G.H. chronicles—in maddening detail—one woman’s [...]