The Elenic Question

OCTOBER 6, 2016

The revelation of Elena Ferrante’s real identity — she is, allegedly, the Italian translator Anita Raja — by the Italian investigative reporter Claudio Gatti has provoked outrage and dismay from journalists and literary critics. Many feel that Gatti’s violation of Raja’s pseudonymity is an unethical attack on her privacy. We agree. Whatever Raja’s reasons for desiring to remain pseudonymous, her wishes should have been respected, at least during...


No Crisis

JUNE 2014 – JANUARY 2016

"No Crisis” is a Los Angeles Review of Books special series considering the state of critical thinking and writing — literary interpretation, art history, and cultural studies — in the 21st century. A new installment to the series will be released at the beginning of each month through the fall of 2015. Our aim, as our introductory essay explains, is to “show that the art of criticism is flourishing, rich with intellectual power and sustaining beauty, in hard times."

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Against "Friendship"

JUNE 26, 2014

It was not quite eight o’clock on the morning of April 17, 2014, when essayist and blogger Emily Gould took to Twitter to imagine what it would look like “if blurbs were honest.” What she wrote there was, by necessity, swift and, by design, mean-spirited. “[Author] is clearly very talented and well-educated, but this novel has no reason to exist beyond those facts,” she began, and proceeded to dash off two or three more contemptuous one-liners...

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James Franco and Matt Rager on 'As I Lay Dying'

OCTOBER 26, 2013

In his 1930 masterpiece As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner wrote, “When something is new and hard and bright, there ought to be something a little better for it than just being safe, since the safe things are just the things that folks have been doing so long they have worn the edges off.” There is nothing safe about actor-director James Franco and his screenwriter Matt Rager’s film adaptation of As I Lay Dying (2013) — the story of the Bundren...

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Feeling Blue: On Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue Is the Warmest Color”

OCTOBER 25, 2013

Blue shutters, blue mailboxes, a blue bus making the rounds in the blue-collar suburbs outside Lille; blue jeans and jackets and bags that brush together as teenagers circle one another in the schoolyard, and a blue scarf that a teenage girl named Adèle wears around her neck like a talisman; blue pen nibs bluing Adèle’s fingers as she writes in her blue notebook; blue sheets and blue pillows lining a bed where Adèle makes passable sounds of pleasure...


Spring Break Forever, Bitches: 1920s France Meets 2013 Florida

MARCH 25, 2013

A simple search for Tom T. Hall’s song “Redneck Riviera” on iTunes yields nearly 30 hits by that name or some variation thereof. There’s “Redneck Riviera” by Hall, but also “Redneck Riviera” by Gary P. Nunn, Shawn Radar, Thomas Michael Riley, Dr. Breeze, Bang, The Beer Dawgs, and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. There’s “Queen of the Redneck Riviera” by Larry Joe Taylor, “Humanity Night on the Redneck Riviera” by John Reno & The Half-Fast Creekers...

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The Queasy Question: On Rick Alverson's "The Comedy"

JANUARY 17, 2013

For many independent filmmakers today, “Most Walked-Out Film at Sundance 2012” is a perverse badge of honor, and Rick Alverson’s deceptively titled The Comedy wears it with pride. That much seems clear from the film’s opening shot: a slow-mo wrestling match between two fat, drunk, and nearly naked men, wheezy 30-somethings whose unlovely flesh swells and falls in time to Donnie and Joe Emerson’s soulful 1979 song “Baby.” ...

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The Lost Novel: On Kerouac's "The Sea Is My Brother"

MAY 17, 2012

Another year, another book overhyped by publishers as “the lost novel” of some long dead literary genius. This time, the dead genius in question is Beat writer Jack Kerouac, whose tale of a disgruntled Columbia University lecturer turned Merchant Marine, The Sea is My Brother, had fans, reviewers, and the marketing gurus over at Penguin and Da Capo alike beside themselves with anticipation. Never mind that in 1968 Kerouac dismissed...