“One of the advantages to being a novelist is removing oneself from the chatter of the fray and trying to get a read and a historical context on what’s happening in one’s own time.” The Guardian interviews Rachel Kushner about women’s prisons, remorse, and her new novel, The Mars Room. Pair with: our review calls Kushner’s latest a “brutal, unforgiving, and often grimly funny tour de force of wasted lives.”
Colm Tóibín’s new book on Elizabeth Bishop is unusually hard to categorize. Part “primer,” part “personal reflection,” in Jonathan Farmer’s words, it moves back and forth between analysis and lyricism, alternating passages of beauty with nuts-and-bolts guides to Bishop’s poems. In Slate, Farmer tries to nail it down. You could also read our own Michael Bourne’s review of Tóibín’s The Master.
“On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be ‘forbid’ and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin.” On John Cleland’s (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.