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Kevin Rabalais

Kevin Rabalais

Kevin Rabalais's books include Novel Voices (2003), The Landscape of Desire (2008), and Conversations with James Salter (2015).

Kevin Rabalais reviews 'Avedon: Something Personal' by Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson

March 2018, no. 399 22 February 2018
Richard Avedon never considered himself a photographer, much less (the horror!) a fashion photographer, yet in sixty years of peripatetic productivity (1944–2004) he revolutionised that field and reinvented photographic portraiture. His work in the fashion industry – as a photographer and, often, creative director of advertising campaigns for Versace, Calvin Klein, and Dior, among others – b ... (read more)

Kevin Rabalais reviews 'Between Them: Remembering my parents' by Richard Ford

June-July 2017, no. 392 26 May 2017
'Our parents intimately link us, closeted as we are in our lives, to a thing we’re not, forging a joined separateness and a useful mystery, so that even together with them we are also alone,’ writes Richard Ford early in ‘My Mother, In Memory’, the first of the two memoirs that comprise Between Them, the Pulitzer Prize winner’s bewitching first book-length work of non-fiction. Born fift ... (read more)

Kevin Rabalais reviews 'Moonglow' by Michael Chabon

December 2016, no. 387 29 November 2016
‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant,’ wrote Emily Dickinson. In Moonglow, his latest novel, Michael Chabon follows Dickinson’s directive. This shape-shifting novel masquerades at times as a memoir and at others as a biography of the author’s grandmother and, more frequently, of his grandfather. At the centre of this family saga that takes us through much of the American Century, we disco ... (read more)

Kevin Rabalais reviews Penguin’s new library of New Zealand Classics

November 2016, no. 386 24 October 2016
At the outbreak of World War II, the British novelist Anna Kavan began a journey around the world that brought her, ultimately, to New Zealand. Her two years there in a landscape that she describes as ‘splendid’ but also ‘sinister’ and ‘frightening’ inspired Kavan’s most famous novel. The surreal and post-apocalyptic Ice (1967) emerged from a mind that found itself adrift, while the ... (read more)

Kevin Rabalais reviews 'The Abundance' by Annie Dillard

September 2016, no. 384 22 August 2016
Read a few of the essays or chapter excerpts in Annie Dillard's The Abundance, and you might find yourself writing a letter to the author. Part of that letter might look like this: Please tell me what kind of writer you are, Ms Dillard – an essayist, a naturalist, an explorer, a theologian, a philosopher? Dillard defies categorisation. In books such as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), An American ... (read more)

Kevin Rabalais reviews 'The Last Love Song: A biography of Joan Didion' by Tracy Daugherty

August 2016, no. 383 25 July 2016
For many young writers, Julian Wasser's 1968 Time magazine photograph of Joan Didion posed in front of her yellow Corvette remains the epitome of cool. This has less to do with the car and the cigarette than the challenging gaze that seems to say, 'I'd rather be writing.' Didion's work continues to deliver news to us as readers and instruct us as writers. In essay collections such as Slouching To ... (read more)

Kevin Rabalais reviews 'In Brazil: Encountering Festivals, Gods, and Heroes in one of the World's Most Seductive Nations' by Fran Bryson

April 2016, no. 380 30 March 2016
Before his first Brazilian sojourn in 1936, Stefan Zweig – the Viennese author who enjoyed fame as the most widely translated writer in the world between the two world wars – deemed the South American country 'terra incognita in the cultural sense'. Once it had also been unknown in the geographical sense, this 'land that one should hardly call a country anymore, but rather a continent', as Zwe ... (read more)

'Letter from New Orleans' by Kevin Rabalais

January-February 2016, no. 378 18 December 2015
The streets of New Orleans double as scented gardens for the blind. Round any corner in the Vieux Carré – known to most as the French Quarter – and experience the assault of sensory details. It might start with a spicy tang of boiling seafood, crawfish, or shrimp or crabs plucked from the amphibious Louisiana land. Maybe it's frying beignets or praline mixture bubbling on stoves, or one of th ... (read more)

Kevin Rabalais reviews 'Deep South' by Paul Theroux

December 2015, no. 377 26 November 2015
The traveller, as V.S. Naipaul describes that role in A Turn in the South (1989), 'is a man defining himself against a foreign background'. Over the past forty years, Paul Theroux has built his career writing books, nearly fifty novels and travelogues, to become an exemplar of that definition. He seeks always to go farther and deeper, often journeying, to borrow one of his titles, to the ends of t ... (read more)

Kevin Rabalais reviews 'Scorper' by Rob Magnuson Smith

November 2015, no. 376 28 October 2015
For the most part, we move among books with ease, passing from one writer's prose to another without having to adjust the frequency of our inner ear. We detect shifts in style and sensibility, sure, but as readers we open ourselves to such a wide harmonic range that, should multiple books arrive on our lap with the authors' names deleted, we could segue from page to page without stumbling over min ... (read more)
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