Morag Fraser

Indiana’s State Route 67 is a highway straight out of Alfred Hitchcock, an open-skied strip through flat country, bordered by desultory malls, a ‘drive-thru’ Taco Bill, a county jail and sheriff’s department, a pedimented Walgreens and – most intriguing – the Mooresville ‘Lost Inn Motel’, and the ‘Lost Name Steak-house and Saloon’. (Google r ...

Morag Fraser tackles ever-prolific Joyce Carol Oates’s massive new novel, ‘The Accursed’, and likens it to a gigantic doll’s house: ‘The house has too many tour guides, encyclopedic, opinionated, and unreliable.’

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The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee & The Round House by Louise Erdrich

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March 2013, no. 349

‘What is chaos?’ asks the unnerving child at the centre of J.M. Coetzee’s new parable-novel, The Childhood of Jesus. ‘I told you the other day,’ replies the child’s guardian. ‘Chaos is when there is no order, no laws to hold on to. Chaos is just things whirling around.’

Louise Erdrich’s The Round House begins with ...

November in America signals a time to gather in, take stock and breathe a little. The elections are done by the end of the first week. Thanksgiving beckons, the high holidays begin, media fever subsides – a little – and morphs into retrospective political analysis and projected anxiety about the future, especially, since 2008, the economic future.

It is ...

The Academy Award season is so given to hyperbole that it was a relief to read one critic not starry-eyed about Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Rex Reed, in the New York Observer, criticised the film for having ‘too much material, too little revelation and almost nothing of Spielberg’s reliable cinematic flair’. I don’t agree for a moment, but Re ...

So many art books! And too many of them remainder-table compendiums of famous images thinly draped with text. It is refreshing, then, to rediscover an artist who has fallen into the slough that often follows a lifetime flush of reputation, and an art historian tenacious enough to resurrect that artist’s work and milieu.

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The Princeton Post Office, as befits this famed university town, has a certain grandeur. It is small – Princeton is a village after all – and modest in its proportions, but grand in aspiration. As you step through its panelled doors your gaze is drawn by the long parade of milk-glass and bronze lights towards the mural that adorns the far wall. Like the White House murals, it is lofty, but almost domestic in its depictions of American history, American hope, American mythology.

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Not since Marguerite Yourcenar’s classic Memoirs of Hadrian (1951) have I encountered a novel of such bravura intensity and insight into the jagged contours of the human heart.

Autumn Laing opens with a mercurial soliloquy. Over eighteen shimmering pages, the novel’s eponymous heroine draws scarcely a breath as, in a soul-scouring torre ...

A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates

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May 2011, no. 331

On 18 February 2008, Joyce Carol Oates’s husband, Raymond J. Smith, died unexpectedly of cardiopulmonary arrest. Smith was eminent in his own field as editor of the Ontario Review, but quietly eminent. Now he has become famous, a household name in international literary circles – as his widow’s spouse. It is an odd state of being, or non-being. But this is an odd book, alternately brilliant and bizarre.

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Immediately after the mid-term elections in November, Barack Obama left for a long-planned G20 gathering in Seoul and for meetings with heads of government in the nation states of India, Indonesia, and Japan. Nothing remarkable, you think? Exactly what one expects a United States president to do? Not in America.

The right-wing blogosphere went berserk. Miche ...

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