On themes related to The New Earth: to start off my new Substack, I wrote about Rachel Corrie, whose life and death was one inspiration for Bering Wilcox, and about how I gave up my youthful skepticism and learned to love big novels. I also wrote about how novels help us think about (and perhaps even prepare for) apocalyptic futures, in “A Novel is Like a Camp” for LitHub.
If you’re interested in my work on race, whiteness, and literature, a good place to start is “What Are White Writers For?” (New Republic, September 2016), and also “White Flights: American Fiction’s Racial Landscape” (Boston Review, July/August 2013), the essay that evolved into my book, White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination. Some of my reflections about the influence of black writers on my own fiction can be found in “Native Sons” (Guernica, August 2014), published when my novel Your Face in Mine was released. I wrote about the 2016 election and its immediate aftermath in “A Safe Space for Racism” (New Republic, November 2016); the second anniversary of Charlottesville in August 2019 (“Why America Still Can’t Stand Up To Trump’s Racism”, CNN); and the aftermath of the George Floyd uprising of June 2020 (“White People Are Already Experts on Racism”, CNN).
Short stories from my forthcoming collection Storyknife: “Late Blues” (VQR, Summer 2022), “Radical Sufficiency” (Granta, November 2018), “The Sliding Door” (n+1, July 2017), “The Empties” (New Yorker, November 2014), “Dear Yale” (Guernica, March 2011), “Take The Child” (Boston Review, June 2010)
Yahdon Israel and I had a great conversation about Your Face in Mine and the beginnings of White Flights in 2016, published as “White Bodies, Black Faces” (New Inquiry).
I wrote about the legacies of violent fathers in our national culture after the Kavanaugh hearings for The New Yorker in “Why Is Being Held Accountable So Terrifying Under Patriarchy?” (November 2018). Here’s another, very different piece about my father: “Portrait of My Father” (Granta, March 2009), and a piece I’m very proud of, one I wrote with him shortly before his death: “The Lucky One” (Guernica, December 2011). About my own life as a parent: “My Family Celebrates All The Holidays” (New Yorker, December 2018); “How To Grant Your Child An Inner Life” (New Yorker, March 2019). One of my first published essays was a piece about Robert Bly’s Iron John, a book that still haunts my imagination: “Remembering Iron John“ (Slate, August 2006)
Some of my other favorite older pieces of criticism: “Unmemorabilia: On Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84“ (Threepenny Review, Summer 2012); “The End of Mourning: On Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Communism With a Key to the Scriptures” (Los Angeles Review of Books, March 15, 2012); “Reproductive Rights: On Marcus Boon’s In Praise of Copying“ (The New Republic Online, May 22, 2011); “The Novel Is Not Dead, Despite Some Critics’ Best Attempts” (Boston Review, May-June 2011); “Eleanor Roosevelt Murdering Babies: The Theater of Wallace Shawn” (Threepenny Review, Fall 2010); “Frayed Rope for a Thousand Years: On David Hinton’s Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology” (Threepenny Review, Winter 2009/2010); “Time Must Have A Stop: On Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero” (new online edition; originally published in Threepenny Review, Winter 2008).