Culture & Literature
The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books March 7, 2019

For over 50 years, The New York Review of Books has been the place where the world's leading authors, scientists, educators, artists, and political leaders turn when they wish to engage in a spirited debate on literature, politics, art, and ideas with a small but influential audience that welcomes the challenge. Each issue addresses some of the most passionate political and cultural controversies of the day, and reviews the most engrossing new books and the ideas that illuminate them. Get The New York Review of Books digital magazine subscription today.

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20 Issues

in this issue

2 min.

JOHN BANVILLE’s latest novel is Mrs. Osmond. SARAH BOXER is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and the author of two cartoon novels, In the Floyd Archives: A Psycho-Bestiary and its forthcoming sequel, Mother May I?: A Post-Floydian Folly. ROBYN CRESWELL is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale. He is the author of City of Beginnings: Poetic Modernism in Beirut. TIM FLANNERY’s new book is Europe: A Natural History. J. HOBERMAN’s Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan will be published in July. LYNN HUNT is Distinguished Research Professor in History at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her books include Inventing Human Rights, Writing History in the Global Era, and, most recently, History: Why It Matters. E. TAMMY KIM is a freelance reporter, former attorney, and contributing opinion writer at…

16 min.

82 nyeon saeng Kim Ji-young [Kim Ji-young, Born in 1982] by Cho Nam-joo. Seoul: Minumsa, 192 pp., 13,000 won In October 2016 the Korean publishing house Minumsa released a short novel called Kim Ji-young, Born in 1982, the latest in a series of works of fiction by “today’s young writers.” The author is a former television scriptwriter, Cho Nam-joo, born in 1978, who had published well-received short stories. She wrote the novel in two months, inspired by her favorite English-language writer, Rebecca Solnit, and maddened by the turns her own life had taken as a Korean woman and the treatment she faced as a new mother. One day, while taking a coffee break with her baby, she heard male passersby refer to her as,or “mom-worm,” a nasty epithet for mothers who have the…

17 min.
a more personal chile

Not to Read by Alejandro Zambra, translated from the Spanish and edited by Megan McDowell. London: Fitzcarraldo, 278 pp., £12.99 (paper) “I abandon books easily,” the Chilean novelist, story writer, poet, and essayist Alejandro Zambra said in a 2015 interview with the Peruvian novelist Daniel Alarcón. Before, especially when I wrote literary criticism, I had the urge to read books from cover to cover. If I was writing about them, I’d read them twice over. I didn’t enjoy that, in part due to the obligation to say something beyond the obvious. I don’t do that anymore; I became more impulsive—there are just too many books I want to read. The specter of “obligatory readings” haunts Not to Read, Zambra’s collection of reviews, essays, and lectures; it’s also the title of the first essay in the…

16 min.
a master of mute forms

Sophie Taeuber-Arp and the Avant-Garde: A Biography by Roswitha Mair, translated from the German by Damion Searls. University of Chicago Press, 222 pp., $55.00 The story of twentieth-century art is crowded with chastened and disabused idealists. How could it be otherwise? Each of the great movements—Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism—began with its own kind of evangelical fervor. These artists were rejecting quotidian experience as they pursued emotional states so unfamiliar or so overpowering as to call into question the fundamentally empirical and materialistic nature of a work of art. Painters and sculptors were raising hopes for artistic catharsis that no painting or sculpture, not even a masterpiece, could ever be expected to fulfill. Sooner or later, the long, hard hours in the studio had a way of turning even cockeyed optimists…

17 min.
the migrant caravan: made in usa

The migrant caravan that left Honduras and headed north toward the US last October is the largest flight from drug trafficking in history. Though the phenomenon of Central American caravans isn’t new, never before have thousands of people decided to flee from criminal organizations in such numbers. It is, in a sense, the biggest antimafia march the world has ever seen. The migrants departed from San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city in Honduras and its economic center, not far from the Guatemalan border. Roughly 160 people had arranged to meet at the city’s bus terminal on October 12, the date of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. By the time they set out, their number had grown to a thousand. People choose to leave together to shield one another, to protect themselves…

1 min.
one door may conceal another

Les rois ne touchent pas aux portes.—Francis Ponge It is the month of May: you openand you close; you open and closethe door, the press, a small plasticreplica of the house. You bringto the implacable destructionof small towers the ambling gaitof a watchful gunslingertumbled smack to the floor.For that he starteth and leapethand boundeth with jubilation,thinks the tabby cat hunchedalarmed-faced at your feet.You slide the glass door open andsurprised but pleased seeyour face swim into placeon another behind it. Wallsare doors, shifting tectonicplates of the open and closed,the way in and out. Imaginethe sadness of kings nevertouching doors for themselvesor uncovering with smallanemone fingers trailed roundthe edge of the door their faces.Face waiting all that timeto emerge from behindyour mother’s and mine, thereis the you behind the doorand the you that…