All posts tagged: 2013

The Deal with Discomfort: Claire Messud on “Likeability,” the Subjective Self, and Choosing an Artist’s Life


Claire Messud headshot

Claire Messud is the author of six novels, including The Emperor’s Children, a New York Times bestseller that was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. Her sixth novel, The Woman Upstairs, was released by Knopf in April 2013 to much critical acclaim and a long listing for the Canadian Scotiabank Giller Prize. As December temperatures plummeted Melody Nixon caught up with Claire Messud over the phone about fiction, philosophy, and that comment about the “likeability” of literary characters.

Isabel MeyersThe Deal with Discomfort: Claire Messud on “Likeability,” the Subjective Self, and Choosing an Artist’s Life

David Lehman on Literary New York, the KGB Bar, and His New and Selected Poems


David Lehman headshot

David Lehman, born and raised in New York City, is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection New and Selected Poems, published by Scribner. He is Series Editor of The Best American Poetry anthology and co-founder of the KGB bar poetry reading series. His poems “Mother Died Today,” “Remember the Typewriter,” and “The Bronze Décor”appeared in Issue No. 05 of The Common.

Isabel MeyersDavid Lehman on Literary New York, the KGB Bar, and His New and Selected Poems

December 2013 Poetry Feature

Celebrate the year’s end with work by powerful younger poets new to our pages: R. A. Villanueva, James Byrne, and Nathaniel Bellows

Julia PikeDecember 2013 Poetry Feature

Small Kindness


A year ago, a girl my age was raped in New Delhi.  Several days later she died of her injuries in a hospital in Singapore.  Her intestines were so badly mangled she would have required a transplant to live.  If she had lived, she would never have eaten without the aid of a tube.

Emma CroweSmall Kindness

Review: The Fiddler of Driskill Hill


The Fiddler of Driskill Hill

Southern writer can be a term of endearment or an epithet. The late Mississippi-born novelist and short-story writer, Barry Hannah, bristled at the label. “Professional Southerners sicken me,” he said. Yet to my ear, Hannah’s work sounds entirely Southern.

Being from Mississippi and sounding it (I’m sure), I can’t help but feel that idiom has more to do with the Southern-ness of literature than geography. So I found myself at a loss when I began reading David Middleton’s The Fiddler of Driskill Hill. The content of Middleton’s poems is undeniably Southern: Louisianan, precisely.

Olivia ZhengReview: The Fiddler of Driskill Hill

Martha Willette Lewis: An Unreal Atlas


Our relationship with maps has changed drastically in the last ten years, from the pinpoint ease of Google Maps to global positioning systems rendering us a blinking blue beacon on a grid of streets. Rarely are we explorers in the completed cartography of our planet. Visual artist Martha Willette Lewis has given us new, unreal spaces to explore by combining diagrammatic drawings, biological systems, and topographical forms. These spaces manifest as works on paper that are often folded, crumpled, or bisected. Lewis takes visual cues from systems that are usually not in contact and, in doing so, creates a skewed sense of reality. Hers is a hybridized vision shared by artists and technological innovators. The paper and drawing are real, but the vision is of an impossible place.

Martha Willette Lewis art

Folded Stellar Hive, 2013
Pencil and India ink on paper and cardboard housing
12x18x7 unfolded

Elemental Reasoning and Limited Resources, 2013 Pencil and India ink on paper and cardboard housing unfolded approx 20.5 x 30 x 7 inches

Elemental Reasoning and Limited Resources, 2013
Pencil and India ink on paper and cardboard housing
unfolded approx
20.5 x 30 x 7 inches

Lewis provides a constructed topography for her unreal spaces. One folded work invoking a map, “Folded Stellar Hive, 2013,” lives as a three-dimensional form. The drawing, like a common map, folds in on itself. In this work, Lewis builds a place for us out of things we recognize, but she creates an amalgam well beyond our possible range of experiences. Filled with color and disorder, the piece’s patterned perimeter begins to yield to the complex forms that mesh within. The geometric forms evoking the spiritual forms of mandalas and rose windows blossom across the paper to build the structure of a hive. In “Elemental Reasoning and Limited Resources, 2013,” ancient gothic vaults and swirling pools of deep space bleed into a pixelated grid. An architect or an engineer could attempt to read this as a technical drawing, as it appears factual, and is based on facts, but the result is fiction.

Brane 3, 2013 India ink on crumpled paper 4x3x4

Brane 3, 2013
India ink on crumpled paper

Lewis also creates topographies in painted, crumpled paper. The complexity of these crumpled forms expand imagined space by giving them dimension. Lewis embraces the paper’s weight and volume, and the work’s objectness becomes a physical presence greater than the viewer thought possible for paper alone. Lewis’s works are worlds within worlds and exist as their own tiny satellites.In “Brane 3, 2013,” the painted crumpled paper form could be a landmass, a brain, the physical cosmology of our universe, or an abstract object. Lewis, a polyglot of various disciplines, intends it to be as all of these.

Membrane, 2013 Ink on crumpled paper on styrofoam plinth 9x10x7

Membrane, 2013
Ink on crumpled paper on styrofoam plinth

Like maps, Lewis’s works are compiled into an atlas, but one that is unreal.  Her forms evoke charts, diagrams, and maps but often comingle their unlike disciplines. Rather than direct the viewer to a known destination, this unreal atlas delves into the land of exquisite variability.

hive 3, 2013 watercolor and pencil on mulberry paper mounted on panels, 20x20x1

hive 3, 2013
watercolor and pencil on mulberry paper mounted on panels,

Untitled world, 2012 Watercolor, marker, pencil on cut leaves of paper, 4ft x 5ft

Untitled world, 2012
Watercolor, marker, pencil on cut leaves of paper,
4ft x 5ft

Martha Willette Lewis earned her BFA from the Cooper Union in New York, and an MFA from Yale University. Her art engages issues of science, technology, and archived human knowledge.

Jeff Bergman is currently Associate Director at Pace Prints in Manhattan. He earned his BA from Hampshire College, where he studied art history and theory. He is the editor of a weekly art newsletter called Atlas.

Julia PikeMartha Willette Lewis: An Unreal Atlas

Winter Migration



It’s late afternoon on the beach in North Florida. It’s October, the end of a season, and the world is in motion. Monarchs cloud through the sunlight in orange swarms; blooms of jellyfish float along the shoreline; and schools of grouper leap in flustered succession, tails suspended above the ocean, bodies flapping. The air is just cold enough to make us duck our shoulders under water and lift our faces toward the sun, not shivering but not warm.

Julia PikeWinter Migration

Bahia Has Its Jeito: Pt. 2


The moment I succumbed to life in the suburbs for the duration of our two-year stay, my husband’s employers offered us an apartment in the middle of Salvador.  We promptly packed our twelve suitcases and moved to Barra, a neighborhood on the peninsula between the Bay of All Saints and the Atlantic Ocean.  Again, the steep hills and winding sidewalks dotted by sprawling almond trees evoked in me an eerie familiarity.  The main bedroom’s built-in wooden closet smelled musty, old-world, and opening its doors never failed to conjure up my grandmother.

Emma CroweBahia Has Its Jeito: Pt. 2

Writing in Place with Helen Hooper


Sometimes I have to leave the house, get out in the world and write among other people.  Not that I want anything to do with any of them.  I just want to set up among them, the better to hunker down. I’m looking to be anonymous.  I’m looking for a place where I can concentrate on my characters while ignoring people.  A place where the rest of humanity provides a soothing backdrop, a therapeutic white noise.

Julia PikeWriting in Place with Helen Hooper

Review: Gods Without Men

Reviewed by A.J. SOOD

Gods Without Men

At the heart of Hari Kunzru’s fourth novel, Gods Without Men, is the disappearance of a child, Raj Matharu, four years old, the autistic son of wealthy New Yorkers Jaz, a Sikh, and his Jewish wife, Lisa. Raj was last seen in the shadow of the Pinnacles, “three columns of rock” in the Mojave desert in the American southwest.

If Gods Without Men is a whodunit, it is one in which the culprit may well be a place. The (fictional) Pinnacles have drawn three centuries of seekers—Spanish friars, believers in aliens,  washed-up British rock stars, hippies—all of whom believe they offer a connection to some vast presence. Over the course of this complex novel, these disparate narratives cast light on the mystery of what happened to Raj, how, and why.

Olivia ZhengReview: Gods Without Men