Here’s a novel idea: using literature to map out the emotions of a time period. (1940s? Sad. 1920s? Happy. 2010s? …Don’t ask.)
Are we now living in a golden age of the uncanny? The Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour suspects that we are, and she also suspects that our historical moment, populated as it is with alienating developments and surreal art, is key to understanding the work of Helen Oyeyemi. In the Times, Khakpour reviews Oyeyemi’s new novel. (You could also read both writers’ Year in Reading pieces.)
"A dark and insane fantasy about the players large and small who populated our post-9/11 landscape, it's not just the book we've maybe wanted but possibly the book we've needed — a strange lens to help us understand who we were, what we've done and who we may yet become." Nathan Deuel reviews Mark Doten's The Infernal (which Adam Fleming Petty reviewed for the Millions here) for the LA Times.
In a short biographical piece for Open Letters Monthly, Sam Sacks writes about the book reviewing career of Katherine Mansfield and the ways in which it "helped her build the writing muscles needed" to finish her masterful short stories. While some critics might take umbrage at the way Sacks characterizes Mansfield as "turning out deadline copy like an ink-stained Fleet Street hack," his look into her reviews culminates in the realization that "the point [of reviewing books] is not to be constructive but to construct something of lasting value in the little space and little time you’re granted. Like all writing, it should be a passion, not a pastime. The point is to dazzle."