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Editor, The New York Times Book Review — The New York Times

Senior editor at The New York Times Book Review.

The Forced Heroism of the ‘Survivor’

The Forced Heroism of the ‘Survivor’ — For most of her life, Virginia Woolf suffered from what she called "looking-glass shame," an aversion to seeing herself in mirrors. She wrote about it late in her career, not long before her suicide, recalling that the trouble began with one particular mirror.

Book club and discussion.

Book club and discussion. — critics Meghan O'Rourke, Parul Sehgal, and Katy Waldman discuss When Breath Becomes Air , the unfinished memoir of a talented neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, who was diagnosed with lung cancer at 36. Kalanithi writes movingly about the moral aspect of medicine, the surreal transition from doctor to patient, and the even more surreal fact of mortality.

New Ways of Being

New Ways of Being — The migrant is the "defining figure of the 20th century," Salman Rushdie wrote 20 years ago in the literary magazine Granta. In "this century of wandering," of refugees and writers in exile carrying "cities in their bedrolls," migrants taught us what it was to be human, he said, because they'd lost those very things that gave shape to their humanity - roots, culture, social knowledge - and were forced to devise new ways of being.

Inside the List -

Inside the List - — A Tougher, Freer Writer: "How is it possible to feel exiled from a language that isn't mine? That I don't know?" Jhumpa ­Lahiri's first nonfiction book - and first work in Italian - "In Other Words," a memoir translated by Ann Goldstein, debuts on the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 8 this week.

Fighting ‘Erasure’

Fighting ‘Erasure’ — Efforts to force collective amnesia are as old as conquest. The Roman decree damnatio memoriae - ''condemnation of memory'' - punished individuals by destroying every trace of them from the city, down to chiseling faces off statues. It was considered a fate worse than execution.

Book club and discussion.

Book club and discussion. — Trying to discuss a Jonathan Franzen novel without digressing into the Franzen publicity storm is somewhat like attempting to make the eggplant emoji mean "eggplant." But this month, critics Meghan O'Rourke, Parul Sehgal, and Katy Waldman do their best with Purity , a sweeping, Dickensian book about a young woman in search of her origins.

Invisible Designs

Invisible Designs — Bohumil Hrabal died only once - in Prague, on Feb. 3, 1997 - but there are at least two versions of the story. In the first, Hrabal - one of the great prose stylists of the 20th century; the scourge of state censors; the gregarious bar hound and lover of gossip, beer, cats and women (in roughly that order) - slipped from a window while feeding birds at the hospital where he was being treated for arthritis.

The New York Times

The Profound Emptiness of ‘Resilience’

The Profound Emptiness of ‘Resilience’ — There are many versions of the bird's death, but in each, it rises the same way - out of its own ashes and into the sun. The myth of the phoenix, that symbol of endurance, began in Arabian and Egyptian folklore and was brought to the West by Herodotus 2,500 years ago.

Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen

Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen — When the writer Mary Gaitskill was a child in the 1950s, she was once taken to a roller-skating rink. She looked around and burst into tears. She didn't understand why everybody was wearing the same thing, those poodle skirts and poodle hairdos.
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May 03, 2016

I wrote about depictions of the sexual violence "survivor" & the odd valences of the word…

Apr 28, 2016

“It’s a unique experience,” she said of dying. “I’ve never done it before." RIP Jenny Diski

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