Exploring the lives of unpleasant people in fiction always carries risks. Awfulness for its own sake or to hammer home a point, no matter how skillfully rendered, can easily grow tedious. Mere jabs at capitalism, materialism and the like will grate on the nerves of the intelligent reader the fifth or sixth time around. Nature […]

What I love about Mary Gaitskill is that she somehow managed to never be corrupted by, I mean, learn, the writer’s code of conduct. There are many things you’re not supposed to do, as a writer. For one, you’re not supposed to write a long personal essay about the grief you suffered over a runaway […]

If I say, “This book, the chapters of which are separated by descriptions of painter’s pigments, alternates between the point of view of the main character, Yuki—who grew up with Japanese parents in New York, made friends with a future model in high school and went on herself to become an artist and move to […]

The general understanding of quizzes is that they’re supposed to be briefer and less formal than tests. Maybe at least partially because of this, while there’s no shortage of literature quizzes to be found on BuzzFeed, Sporcle and the like, many of them tend to feature the same sediment being stirred up to the surface. […]

Bae Suah’s 에세이스트의 책상, translated into English by Deborah Smith and available as A Greater Music from Open Letter, has a wintry feel to it. To be fair, much of the book does take place in winter. But while A Greater Music covers a number of years and therefore seasons, it’s winter that casts its pervasive blanket over […]

I may be developing a knack for reading books I can’t summarize. Sasha Sokolov’s Between Dog and Wolf was difficult to sum up because it lacks a linear plot. Percival Everett’s Assumption, on the other hand, has inspired personal reviews saying, in so many words, “Stop right here and go read the book! Everything is a spoiler!” […]

Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The painting shown above is Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Hunters in the Snow. As you can see, it’s a work of great depth and intricacy. However, as you may have guessed, I’ve placed it here because it’s special in the context of this review. References to The Hunters appear in translator Alexander Boguslawski’s notes for the […]

Language. Culture. Origins. These concepts are known quantities. They’re obvious as money, healthy as kale. Aren’t they? In our pseudo-psychological society, outright rejecting any of the concepts above may be seen as evidence of a lack of self-acceptance or as grounds for pity. The vague and largely unexamined public value placed on these concepts is […]

Before going to see a performance of “The Foreigner” at the Milwaukee Rep Theater, I was looking forward to a welcome distraction from recent events. The only thing I really knew about the play was that it involved a man getting caught in a sticky situation in which he was forced or compelled to pretend […]

I’m not the kind of person who gives a lot of thought to my own tombstone. Officially, I’d say I prefer to be cremated, but I’m really more of a “dump me in the nearest river” type. At the same time, I don’t particularly think of graves or graveyards as being creepy places. I think […]