Our annual winter support keeps the Rail independent, relevant, and free
To mark the end of this annus horribilis, we are sharing a list of the best books we read and covered in the past 12 months. Piece by piece, the list reveals whatand howwe have endured.
Can you forgive someone who isnt sorry? Should you? Thats what haunted popular New School writing professor Susan Shapiro following the perplexing betrayal of a trusted mentor after 15 years of friendship. In Shapiros candid, captivating new memoir, The Forgiveness Tour, she tries everything to move on: ghosting him, play-by-play analysis of their fights, even summoning a Yiddish curse for revenge. She stumbles on a billion-dollar Forgiveness Industry touting the personal benefits of absolution, but the skeptical journalist fears its all bullshit.
Over the last decade and a half, Scholastique Mukasonga has resurrected an entire lost culture. Though she was nearly 50 when her first book appeared, and writing in French, her third or fourth languagedepending how you count the indigenous tongues of Rwandaher output amounts to a small but essential library memorializing the Tutsi.
His latest books of essays, Bland Fanatics, which collects writings published mostly in the 2010s, focuses on the failures of Western liberalism, its mainstream media, and the bankruptcy of its most revered intellectuals. We spoke with Mishra on the occasion of the book about liberalism in disrepute, the lessons of Antonio Gramsci, and the usefulness of certain literary styles.
Though lacking the inexpensive allure of the old paperback editionsnot to mention the comprehensiveness of the six-volume collectors set released in 2009A Life in Letters succeeds by placing a modest sampling of Van Goghs correspondence into dialogue with both the life and the paintings. Each phase of the artists wandering is bracketed with a brief biographical précis, refreshingly unadorned and free of the usual apocrypha.
A sense of the communal persists in Jonathan Lethems fiction, but, within these imagined and would-be idealized communities, anarchy, the threat of violence, and violence itself percolates and sometimes even thrives.
In examining historical parallels, I recently reread Wilhelm Reichs Mass Psychology of Fascism. Arguments over whether the United States is a fascist society or not are less important than understanding the conditions that have given rise to the form of authoritarian government, with a representative democratic face, we experience. 21st-century society is not a reproduction of 1930s Europe. But we can learn from previous historical eras.
Kevin Careys latest novel, Murder in the Marsh, is everything you could want in crime noir. Its gritty and face-paced, centering around a murky marsh and a down-and-out detective with a fuzzy past that haunts him.