No real letter this week because I published a review of the new Sally Rooney novel Beautiful World, Where Are You in the New York Times. It’s cover of Sunday’s book review, so look for me out in the wilds!
The move to New York has been good so far. A slow and steady trickle of furniture. Yesterday, the table arrived. The day before that, the bed frame arrived. The mattress comes sometime next week, just in time for me to be able to sleep on the bed for one night before having to return to…Massachusetts for the Provincetown Book Festival. I have a small sidetable coming for the microwave and kettles because my counter space and storage situation is getting pretty dire, y’all. This apartment is beautiful, but the shelves and counters were designed just slightly suboptimally so that nothing I have quite fits without a lot of forethought. It’s been an interesting exercise in being intentional about what I get because there simply isn’t the room for just guess and check here. But that seems like a letter for another day, lol.
About the Rooney review. The earlier draft of the piece had all this research and references in it, and through revision, those parts had to come out. But they did not go to waste. I spun them off into an essay about the Ikeaization of the contemporary novel, which I published a couple weeks back. I consider the review and the essay kind of companion pieces to each other as they both explore this particular set of impulses in contemporary fiction. I consider the essay a kind of generalization of the specific arguments made in the Rooney review, so I think they can be read together.
I guess the overarching idea is that the contemporary novel, that vibey Sebaldy novel and its recent descendants have kind of become a tedious genre in and of themselves. In which people in urban centers, the bobos specifically, gesture toward the insurmountable nature of contemporary ills and then, like, do something mundane and we’re supposed to be like, “Wow, the triumph of the human heart.” That is an uncharitable summary of the issue, I know. I think it’s unpacked at greater length and with more care and nuance in the essays themselves, so go give them a read if you want.
Also, I will be in conversation with Knausgaard about his new novel The Morning Star and I will be in conversation with Nancy Goldstone about her sweeping, immersive history of Maria Theresa and her daughters on Sept. 24. Check out the links for more details!