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    Reviews and Essays

    Sharp Bookmark

    May 15, 2024  | 

    Is Salman Rushdie an artist or a symbol? Can he be one but not the other? Or perhaps it’s an all-or-nothing affair and he is both or else neither. Ever since Rushdie, the author of 13 novels, was violently attacked onstage

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    Paul Auster’s Voice

    May 8, 2024  | 

    Paul Auster died on April 30 after being the voice in my ear for a month. I had only recently finished his massive novel 4321, using an approach I learned from my wife to preserve momentum on very long books.

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    Great Lakes Odyssey

    April 5, 2024  | 

    In a time of pessimism and uncertainty, storytellers have recently turned to the future to predict a grim world that yet retains flickers of light. HBO’s recent series “The Last of Us” explored the familiar terrain of the zombie apocalypse through the bond between

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    The Killing of an IRA Man

    April 1, 2024  | 

    The political conflict in Northern Ireland that not so long ago involved a cycle of terror and reprisal has given way to a series of dry bureaucratic spats. The regional parliamentary assembly in Belfast recently reconvened

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    Emptying the Bookshelves

    December 22, 2023  | 

    “We’re going through Dad’s bookshelves and wondered if you’d like us to save some things for you?” This innocent question, posed by phone in the fortnight between my father’s death and his memorial service

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    Plains Writing

    November 30, 2023  | 

    The American West is a great setting for a story, but a hard place to live. That is the theme of new biographies of Willa Cather and Larry McMurtry, 20th-century novelists who abandoned a life

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    Writing in Reverse

    November 20, 2023  | 

    Hilary Mantel wrote with a novelist’s flair and a historian’s mind. Her fiction overflows with the busy detritus of life: this plate of fruit, that whispered threat, children at play, a plucked string. The accretion of detail

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    The World in Their Hands

    November 17, 2023  | 

    Of all the artifacts that persist in the face of new technology, the globe may be strangest. Books have stubbornly clung to market share despite the rise of e-readers. Mechanical wristwatches remain the subject

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    Anchored in Space, Voyaging in Time

    September 22, 2023  | 

    On his first night in rehabilitation after a massive stroke at age 68, the writer Jonathan Raban took on a project. “I had long promised myself to read Tony Judt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945—a long book

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    Scenes from a Literary Marriage

    September 12, 2023  | 

    George Orwell was a man in need of a better half. Reserved and awkward, he was inept at manual tasks and perennially sick. For most of his brief life he looked like he was starving to death.

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    Criticism, Anyone?

    June 12, 2023  | 

    I once invited Martin Amis to play tennis. The year was 2007 and he was visiting Chicago to promote his latest novel, House of Meetings. After his book talk, I lined up with other audience members to get my copy signed

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    The Watchmaker’s Eye

    June 9, 2023  | 

    People who love watches tend to be romantics, more interested in yesterday than tomorrow. The current Apple Watch can make calls and receive e-mails, track heartbeats and count sheep

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