“We live in the age of opinion — offered instantly, effusively and in increasingly strident tones. Much of it goes by the name of criticism, and in the most superficial sense this is accurate.” The New York Times approached six accomplished critics, Stephen Burns, Katie Roiphe, Pankaj Mishra, Adam Kirsch, Sam Anderson, and Elif Batuman to explain, in the spirit of Alfred Kazin, “what it is they do, why they do it and why it matters.”
The possibility of a new André 3000 solo album (even if it’s “no sure thing”) is liable to make this writer giddy. Fun Fact: In a print-only interview with Oxford American, National Book Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward nominated Three Stacks as “the most underrated Southern writer.” (And she’s a fan of his collaborations with Frank Ocean, too.) You shouldn’t have needed an endorsement, but if you did, then that should be good enough for you.
Novels that focus on obsessive characters hinge on persnickety details. The need to depict accurately the mind of an obsessive demands that the novelist overemphasize the trifling and tangential. In The Kenyon Review, Vanessa Blakeslee reviews a new and representative example of the form, The Understory by Pamela Erens. Sample quote: “When the smaller steps of daily life are magnified, does that narrative reach its greatest potential for a unified and powerful resonance?” FYI, Erens has written for us.