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Grievance, paranoia, and Ian Buruma Many observers in the Dutch press had a hard time understanding the fall of Ian Buruma. My explanation was published in Dutch in Letter&Geest on September 29, 2018. Ian Buruma is out. Our man in New York, the Dutchman who made his name in the English-speaking world with insightful books […]

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The narrator of Sheila Heti’s new novel Motherhood is in an agony of doubt. She’s in her late thirties. Does she or doesn’t she want a child? Why can’t she make this life decision? When she thinks of having a baby she balks. She’s afraid of giving up her freedom, and besides, how could she […]

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In The Village Voice I wrote about another aspect of Ursula, not the homebody but the writer and thinker ahead of her time. Before Ursula K. Le Guin, who died last week at age 88, goes to dwell among the stars — maybe near the constellation that bears her name — it’s worth remembering how […]

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Ursula Le Guin died unexpectedly on Monday, January 22, in the home in Portland, Oregon, where she lived with her husband Charles. After she asked me to be her biographer, several years ago, she and I had many long talks on the phone, met once or twice a year, and corresponded. We talked about my […]

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Sometime between October 9 and 14, 1797—let’s call it the second Monday in October—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as he was walking on the coast in southwest England, became ill and stopped to rest at a remote farm. An image had been tugging at his attention, from a seventeenth-century traveler’s tale about China. In this unfamiliar house, […]

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A truck, a Paris street, an absent-minded philosopher. On February 25, 1980, these disparate objects collided and fused into biographical fact: the semiotician Roland Barthes stepped off a curb near his Left Bank office and was hit by a laundry van. He died a month later in a Paris hospital. For the resourceful French novelist […]

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While I’m talking with the poet and novelist Paul Beatty in his Amsterdam hotel, we spot another Booker Prize winner, Hilary Mantel, sailing through the lobby. Both have novels newly out in Dutch translation, and both did interviews the day before for a books program on Dutch TV. Beatty envies her interview skills, he tells […]

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