Nonfiction

RECENT REVIEWS

The Key of Holy Sympathy

The Key of Holy Sympathy

IN NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE’s story “Ethan Brand,” the eponymous protagonist travels the world in pursuit of “the Unpardonable Sin” before eventually coming to realize that he need never have le...

Changing Sides, or, The Assimilation Blues

Changing Sides, or, The Assimilation Blues

I WANT TO BELIEVE that the quality of an argument wins or loses its audience. In a review, as in an essay, one makes assertions, generalizations, and bold claims, and then defends them with robust cha...

Wild Literary Geographies

Wild Literary Geographies

ONE OF THE ENDURING MYTHS of environmental journalism is that it’s either so wonky or dire that no one wants to read it. It’s too depressing. And all the false on-the-one-hand-on-the-other equival...

The Paradoxical Power of Memory

The Paradoxical Power of Memory

FOR ME, reading Jie Li’s Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life — a book that combines memoir and ethnography to chart the course of ordinary lives during times of rapid change — was an emo...

Why Pronouns Matter

Why Pronouns Matter

MARY NORRIS BEGINS the acknowledgments at the back of Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by crediting “John Bennet, of The New Yorker, who encouraged me to write something — an...

Empty Beds, Empty Wombs: Life Beyond the Blueprint

Empty Beds, Empty Wombs: Life Beyond the Blueprint

I WAS MIDWAY through this essay when one of my best friends from high school texted me, “Do you have a moment?” I always have a moment for a writing distraction, so I wrote, “This sounds like b...

Two Generations of South African Nonfiction

Two Generations of South African Nonfiction

JONNY STEINBERG AND CHARLES VAN ONSELEN, best of the best among South Africa’s nonfiction writers, make an interesting pair. The older of the two, Van Onselen (b. 1944), is the country’s most cele...

Which One Was Truly Radical?

Which One Was Truly Radical?

SOME WRITERS LIVE in optimal habitats that generate their best work. For Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey, that place was the vast, dry American West. In 2012, with a box full of books riding shotgu...

Dumbing Down the Underground

Dumbing Down the Underground

FOR DECADES after its heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Weathermen were mostly hidden in the shadows of American consciousness and memory. Already by the mid-1970s, the radical group strug...

Progress of Stories

Progress of Stories

MOST ACCOUNTS of Joseph Mitchell’s storied career at The New Yorker end in September 1964, when, at age 56, the reporter published his last piece for the magazine: the two-part exposé of “Joe Gou...

A Dissident Writer in Modern America

A Dissident Writer in Modern America

NEAR THE END OF NYRB Classics’ new assemblage of Renata Adler’s nonfiction, in an essay entitled “Irreparable Harm,” Adler writes, Not infrequently, an event so radical that it alters everyth...