For The LA Review of Books, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor reviews Saidiya Hartman’s new book, Wayward Crossings, Beautiful Experiments. The book, which Taylor describes as “a radical, genre-defying examination of the lives of ‘ordinary’ young Black women” in the early 20th century, is an exercise in understanding these women’s lives without sensationalizing, idealizing, or dismissing their experiences. Hartman’s subjects, Taylor writes, are found “on the periphery of archival refuse,” and she celebrates the “black city-within-a-city” that they helped create in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago in particular. Ultimately, Hartman is interested “in the multitude of ways that Black women ‘made a way out of no way,’ whether through flight, migration, work, sex, singing, dancing, screaming, and all of the social and cultural innovation born from pure defiance and a refusal to do what you are told.”
New this week: a pair of highly anticipated collections, Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash and Middle Men by Jim Gavin. Also out is Michael Hainey’s intriguing memoir chronicling his investigation into his father’s mysterious death, After Visiting Friends.
A half-century ago, Thomas Berger published Little Big Man, a satire of Westerns that helped increase the stature of the Western genre as a whole. To mark the book’s 50th anniversary, Allen Barra reflects on its legacy, suggesting that it’s as good a candidate as any for the title of Great American Novel. Related: Daniel Kalder on the odd phenomenon of the Euro-Western.
“Writing isn’t entirely mental. You’re a physical being, and sometimes when your writing is broken, it’s your body that needs attention, not your mind.” Rebecca Makkai has some tips for breaking writer’s block and a very cool perspective on writing as a whole person. Pair with our interview with Makkai about her latest novel, The Hundred-Year House.
The New York Times Book Review commissioned a work of fiction about the election from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She chose to write about Melania Trump. If you can handle more Trump, check out Greg Chase’s portrait of a Trump supporter, based on Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury.