If God Is Dead, Your Time Is Everything

At a recent conference on belief and unbelief hosted by the journal Salmagundi, the novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson confessed to knowing some good people who are atheists, but lamented that she has yet to hear “the good Atheist position articulated.” She explained, “I cannot engage with an atheism that does not express itself.” She …

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A Début Novel Remixes the Trope of the Missing Girl

A dead or missing girl is such a common device in crime fiction that its use now prompts raised eyebrows. In “Dead Girls,” Alice Bolin writes about television series, like “Twin Peaks” and “True Detective,” in which “the victim’s body is a neutral arena on which to work out male problems.” The girl is merely …

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Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian

When Henry James remarked, in his preface to “The Portrait of a Lady,” that “the house of fiction has . . . not one window, but a million,” he could not have anticipated the genre of fiction to which we have given the inexact term “science fiction.” Still less could he have anticipated the sort of literary-humanist science …

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Modernity, Faith, and Martin Buber

“I and Thou,” a short treatise by the Jewish theologian Martin Buber, was published in German in 1923; by the time it appeared in English, fourteen years later, the translator could already call it “one of the epoch-making books of our generation.” When Buber died, in 1965, his Times obituary focussed mainly on this one …

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Hippies and Yippies in Historical Fiction 

In June, 1967, Abbie Hoffman, the antic gadfly of the Vietnam years, wed his second wife, Anita, in a hippie happening on Central Park’s Great Lawn. That August, he rained dollar bills onto perplexed—and then madly grasping—traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Two months later, he participated in a wishful attempt …

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Reason Gets Lovesick in Lena Andersson’s Fiction

“Acts of Infidelity” (Other Press), the new novel by the Swedish writer Lena Andersson, begins with a plaintive act of devotion. A woman calls a flower shop and asks that a single gerbera daisy be delivered to an actor at Stockholm’s Scala Theatre, along with a note signed with a false name. She’s so anxious …

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John Hersey and the Art of Fact

What everybody knows about John Hersey is that he wrote “Hiroshima,” the one widely read book about the effects of nuclear war. Its place in the canon is assured, not only because it was a major literary achievement but also because reporters haven’t had another chance to produce an on-the-scene account of a city recently …

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Man, Woman, and Robot in Ian McEwan’s New Novel 

Charlie Friend is thirty-two. A former electronics whiz kid, he has squandered his youth on dilettantish studies in physics and anthropology, followed by a series of botched get-rich-quick schemes. His parents are dead, his friends (if they exist) go unmentioned, and his employment consists of forex trading on an old laptop in his two-room apartment. …

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Nelson Algren’s Street Cred

Twenty-six years ago in these pages, Harold Brodkey took brutal stock of the work of the late John O’Hara, whose reputation, over which O’Hara had obsessed, was already in decline. “Literary immortality is a curious notion,” Brodkey wrote, in a tone of detached sagacity that surely surprised those who knew him, for if any writer …

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