Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg
Eisenberg is a short-story writer very unlike most other short-story writers. I say this as a compliment. She tells stories of the kind that sound like ordinary bourgeois New Yorker-type stories, but it’s in the mode of execution that she makes her mark on them. A line from a Ben Marcus review of her work often comes to me when I think of describing what her stories are like: “refracted through cracked glass.” This collection, from 2006, is pretty great.
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
Listen, I keep putting this book on lists here because it is really a far more accessible sort of book than the big Cromwell tomes (which I love as well, but still). Mediums, sailor-ghosts, come on!
Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag
This is the only book of criticism I’m putting on this list, and I’m putting it there for the delightful irony it represents in Sontag’s career. Here she is, one of the great interpreters of the ages, and she nonetheless kicks off her career by calling for an end to the practice that will come to define her life.
"This book is a smorgasbord of erudition and delight. Sontag is always searching for the ethical in oppositions: the body and the mind; being good and being intelligent; the political and the aesthetic; censorship and freedom; religion and atheism."
"When there is no censorship the writer has no importance. So it’s not so simple to be against censorship."
From As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks 1964-1980, by Susan Sontag. Picador, page 441. This quotation is from 1977.
"Being intelligent isn’t, for me, like doing something ‘better.’ It’s the only way I exist. If I’m not [being] intelligent, I hover near being catatonic."
From As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks 1964-1980, by Susan Sontag. Picador, page 350. This quotation is from 1973.
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