Marguerite Duras
Marguerite Duras

“A selection of her books has recently been published in an Everyman’s Library edition, with an introduction by the novelist Rachel Kushner. On the face of it, it’s an idiosyncratic grouping, to put it kindly: ‘The Lover’ (1985); ‘Practicalities’ (1990), her riffs on alcohol, men and other forces of mayhem in her life; and her posthumously published journals, ‘Wartime Notebooks’ (2008). Why not ‘The Ravishing of Lol Stein,’ the novel she was proudest of, I wondered, or ‘Blue Eyes, Black Hair,’ to give a sense of her formal experimentation and sheer weirdness (it’s an entire novel more or less about a naked woman lying on a bed with a piece of black silk over her face — and it kind of works)?

But the wisdom of these choices becomes apparent. We get as complete a portrait as we can hope for: the writer the world knows (‘The Lover’ was a global best seller); the one performing her public role (she’s very much the literary grande dame in the chatty essays in ‘Practicalities’); and the one at work, spurring herself on in notebooks that an editor called Duras’s ‘workshop, gymnasium, kitchen, treasure chest.'”

— Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

Lidia Yuknavitch
Lidia Yuknavitch
Jennifer Glaser (LARB) praises Yuknavitch’s new novel, The Small Backs of Children, as a fine example of experimental women’s writing
The terrain of contemporary experimental fiction has been largely claimed by male writers. This is nothing new. As Andreas Huyssen pointed out years ago, despite Gustave Flaubert’s assertion that Madame Bovary “c’est moi,” he spent most of his career carefully distinguishing his high modernist literary sensibilities from the popular tastes of the feminized masses. The contest between high and low, difficulty and ease, in fiction continues to travel along these gendered lines — particularly in conversations about American literature. Jonathan Franzen and Ben Marcus’s 2002 row over the value of experimental fiction and the fate of the novel in the pages of The New Yorker and Harper’s marked not only a new, meta-ethical turn in fiction after 9/11, but also a continuation of age-old male anxieties about the feminization (or “Oprah-fication”) of the reading public and what this meant for male novelists concerned about the size of their … impact. Later, Franzen tangled with a new foe, so-called chick lit author Jennifer Weiner, about a related topic: the perils of self-promotion for writers of literary fiction. This conflict, in turn, developed into a larger battle about the absence of women writers in the contemporary American canon — with Weiner and Franzen as its unlikely antipodes.

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