Helprin’s latest novel, In Sunlight and in Shadow, can be read as an elegy for the American Century. Helprin’s emphasis on invidividual responsibility, as well as his backwards-lookingness, over-the-topness, and magical thinking, give us a window into the Republican Party he supports.
In his fiction, Irvine Welsh asks how we can sustain a sense of community in a culture where pursuit of self-interest is proclaimed as the dominant virtue. Skagboys, the new prequel to Trainspotting, takes issue with the spiritual legacy of Thatcherism
In the worlds Samuel R. Delany describes and creates, a sense of community is to be found chiefly in marginalized social spaces – here people are supportive of each other, free from sexual judgment or racial prejudice, and polyamorous. Delany's latest novel, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, continues his lifelong struggle against ready-made assumptions.
There are unexpected similarities between two writers usually thought of as polar opposites. The author ends up wishing that each of them would write their version of an imagined encounter with the other.
Battle Royale and The Hunger Games are young adult novels in which governments force teenagers to kill each other. Comparing these books to classic works by William Golding and Robert Sheckley suggests that, while becoming more skeptical about governments, we've become more trusting about our own nature.
A prophet-provacateur faithful to French traditions of lucidity, sensuality, and alienation, Houellebecq believes we are all doomed. The Map and the Territory continues his great project of exposing the limits of individualism.
The definitive U.S. comic strip of the last two decades features workplace alienation, managerial dysfunction, and socio-economic stratification. Last month its creator announced he's running for President as an independent. His candidacy may not be serious, but how about his policies?
Jennifer Egan's fiction asks whether our experience is now technologically mediated to the point that we routinely mistake the map for the territory. In her book A Visit from the Goon Squad, she evokes a world where the pressure constantly to self-reinvent threatens to erode our sense of identity.
The greatest novel has probably been written, while the greatest computer game is still almost certainly to come. Will the medium change us enough to turn itself into mainstream art, as the novel once did?
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"As students of politics is it is vital to study the power of imagination."
-Professor Charles Tripp, SOAS