My German translator, Margo Jane Warnken, has won the Kurd Laßwitz Preis 2014 for best science fiction translation for James Tiptree Jr. – Das Doppelleben der Alice B. Sheldon (Septime Verlag, 2013). Congratulations, Margo, and many thanks to Septime Verlag, who are in the process of publishing the complete works of James Tiptree, Jr., in […]

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Welcome to my new website! I’ve put together a selection of my recent articles and posted them here: on Toni Morrison and Michael Chabon, A.S. Byatt and Patti Smith, the art of the love letter, the Lost Continent of Mu, a Turkish writer in Amsterdam, and “Mrs. Dalloway” in the 21st century. Taken together they […]

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My review of Chang-Rae Lee’s “On Such a Full Sea” is in the new issue of Ms. I’m still thinking about the book, and about why I so often end up with mixed feelings reading science fiction by “literary” writers. On one hand, Lee makes skillful use of science fiction to explore Asian culture and […]

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It’s rare to find a woman writer who is directly inspired or enabled by her experience as a mother. Although I would like to believe that parents have a direct line to the deepest levels of human meaning, I suspect that most of the time parenting and writing, when they’re not actively interfering with each […]

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Women writers need to “raise the bar,” write more forcefully, set aside relationships and other supposedly female business and tackle “bigger” subjects. So says the young male novelist Jamal Ouariachi in last week’s Vrij Nederland, repeating a popular current assessment of women writers’ problem. Now, to my mind, the idea that novels by women are […]

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There are publishers who like to rummage in the jewel box of literature, looking for old books to try on. Some turn out to be diamonds, others semiprecious stones that happen to suit the mood of the times. “Stoner” (1965) by John Williams, last year’s successful revival, is an example of the second. Writing fifty […]

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“What is art good for?” This question is often asked but seldom convincingly answered. It could be that the query itself doesn’t make much sense. What is sex good for? At a guess, humans don’t make art because it’s useful. We paint, write, read, look, listen, make music because it’s what we do. Imagination is […]

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My first job in New York was as an editorial assistant at Pantheon Books, where André Schiffrin was publisher. After he was fired, I was one of the employees who walked out in protest. He wore left-wing corduroy jackets and a benign look; he was too busy to take much notice of us assistants, but […]

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“I was brought up to believe that the worst thing you could do was ‘call attention to yourself,’ or ‘think you were smart,’” Alice Munro, the new winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, once told the New Yorker. When Munro (1931) was growing up in Depression-era Canada, she learned not to believe she was […]

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  On September 4 I moderated a reading with one of the writers I admire and love most, Margaret Atwood, for the John Adams Institute in De Duif in Amsterdam. There’s no recording of our conversation, but she read one of my favorite parts of MaddAddam, the story of Zeb and the bear, and you […]

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