The day after hardcover printing was halted for “Philip Roth: a Biography” — which is to say, the day after news broke that the biography’s author, Blake Bailey, was accused of rape; accusations that Bailey denies — I did precisely the morally questionable thing and spent $19.24 to download the book onto my Kindle.
It’s hard to explain the rationale behind this purchase, except that when an alleged rapist writes a book about a brilliant but problematic novelist, and when that book is lauded and celebrated up until the moment two women say the author assaulted them — when all that happens, you wonder how the 900-page tome reads in hindsight.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel Whereabouts follows an unnamed narrator in an unnamed Italian city, grappling with loneliness. The book is spare, meditative, and episodic. The narrative follows not a defined plot but a series of moments, beautifully showcasing the way we experience life: the moments that are most important—the turning points—are often only realized in retrospect.
Few documents are venerated as much as the American constitution. Until recently, one million people a year filed past the original copy on display in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in Washington DC. Yet, as Linda Colley’s brilliant new book shows, viewing constitutions as national tablets of stone tells us more about their contemporary charisma than the complex histories from which they were wrought. In this compelling study of constitutions produced around the world between the mid-18th century and the outbreak of the first world war, she upends the familiar version of history at every turn.
There are several impressive, full-dress biographies of Hitchcock, but Edward White’s thoughtful and nuanced book takes a different approach. “The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock” explores the master’s life and work through a dozen different prisms that expose and illuminate his various personas. Some are obvious to any Hitchcock fan: the Murderer, the Womanizer, the Auteur, the Voyeur, the Entertainer. Others are more original: The Dandy, for example, explores Hitchcock’s fascination with fashion design for both men and women.
Left elbow broken at the age of three
and never quite corrected, bending rogue,