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Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman, 23 September 2010

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... years.One example is McGurl’s discussion of ‘meta-slave narrative’, a genre illustrated by William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner (1967), the first-person novelisation of a historical account left by a rebel slave awaiting execution. By ‘refusing the perspectival limitations imposed by his own whiteness,’ McGurl claims, ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... of editors on the look-out. He’s invited to write reviews for the New Yorker, whose editor, William Shawn, was as Jamesian a figure as Lionel Trilling, a mandarin of almost excruciating courtesy and subtle indirection, riddled with phobias. Podhoretz prided himself, as well he might, on being the only young man to write for both Partisan Review and the ...

Travelling in the Classic Style

Thomas Laqueur: Primo Levi, 5 September 2002

Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics 
by Robert Gordon.
Oxford, 316 pp., £45, October 2001, 0 19 815963 3
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Primo Levi 
by Ian Thomson.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 09 178531 6
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The Double Bond: Primo Levi, a Biography 
by Carole Angier.
Viking, 898 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88333 6
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... his precipitous decline year after year. (His neuro-chemistry is not accessible to biography.) William Styron gave up trying to understand his own collapse, which coincided, roughly speaking, with Levi’s last attack: ‘the very number of hypotheses is testimony to the malady’s all but impenetrable mystery.’ Levi’s death is thus both easy and ...

Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... an ad hoc fund that channelled donations from an all-star roster of American authors, including William Styron, Bellow, Alison Lurie and Gore Vidal; even Irving Howe chipped in. It was thanks to Roth’s entrepreneurship that Penguin launched its Writers from the Other Europe series, which introduced (among others) Milan Kundera, Bruno Schulz, Tadeusz ...

Towards the Transhuman

James Atlas, 2 February 1984

The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... different from ‘writing’ or ‘novel-making’ – from what ‘entertainers’ like Bellow, Styron or Updike engage in. Karl’s dreary premise is that writers who win popular acclaim are somehow suspect, creations of what he variously calls ‘the media’ and ‘the marketplace’. Modern and Post-Modern literature is often ‘inaccessible and even ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth, 23 January 2014

Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... of a physical crisis (appendicitis), which came on at the launch party for a friend’s novel – William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner – were interpreted as somatic manifestations of envy. But although there were gaps in his treatment, he went on seeing Kleinschmidt for five years. Then, in 1967, he discovered that Kleinschmidt had used ...

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