The debut novel from Ukraine-born Yelena Moskovich is a surreal and distinctively written exploration of identity that offers no easy answers. Although Moskovich writes in English, it is not her first language, as is immediately clear in her prose style. This can be irritating, but also leads to some wonderfully original turns of phrase: one character paints the stairs “with short, stubby strokes as if painting an elephant’s toenails”; another has “the look of a boy who’s hiding a beetle behind his back”. These unusual phrasings are the book’s strongest moments.
It was still the golden age of pulp fiction in America, but Gold Medal’s enormous success would be among the forces that started to put the pulp magazines out of business. These books aren’t much read any more, and, of course, literary quality wasn’t the main criterion for publication, but on the evidence of Black Wings Has My Angel, a flawless 1953 heist novel by Elliott Chaze reprinted this month by New York Review Classics, it wasn’t disqualifying either. On a technical level, it is possible to write a perfect crime novel. You might say Black Wings Has My Angel is beyond perfection.
Andrew’s father and I write non-fiction. A lot of our life together has been time spent freelancing. It’s an uncertain profession. In my heart I’d hoped for a vocation for our son that would leave him a little more secure. He could become an architect, perhaps. I thought that this would make a very fine pursuit. In preschool he was the undisputed master of the block corner. “So there,” I thought, “There. The matter is settled.”
Not so. One afternoon when he was about eight, he padded wordlessly into my office and stuck a strip of masking tape across one corner of the desk. Then, with a Sharpie, he scrawled, “Beyond the Stars.” I didn’t ask for an explanation and he didn’t give one. But some weeks later at dinner he blurted out, “I just can’t seem to finish a novel!” (Beyond the Stars was apparently one of those chucked into the dead MSS bin.)
There was a time, in the distant past, when studying nutrition was a relatively simple science.
My dentist tells me that I grind my teeth at night. He says this is a very bad thing and needs to be remedied. Apparently the problem is tension, brought on by stress. Clearly I need less stress in my life. To make this happen I have decided to use this column to address all the things about restaurants that I truly hate; the atrocities I hope to see disappear in 2016. These things may sound minor, but together they amount to a hurricane of tooth-blunting fury. My ability to chew meat properly depends upon all of it being dealt with.