Sunday Reading: Writers at Work

With The New Yorker Annual fiction issue hitting newsstands this week, not to mention smart phones and computer screens, we’ll whet your appetite with extraordinary portraits of literary artists at work.

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In 2014, Ian Parker published “Inheritance”, a profile of Edward St. Aubyn, a contemporary British novelist whose life combined great privilege, appalling abuses and miserable excesses, all of which became the incendiary material of his art. In “Three Journeys”, Janet Malcolm considers the dramatic life and fiction of Anton Chekhov through her own extensive reading and tracing his travels through Russia. In “Middlemarch and Me,” Rebecca Mead takes George Eliot’s wise and voluminous novel as a kind of guide, moral and intellectual, to achieving a meaningful adult life. In “A Society of One”, Claudia Roth Pierpont explores the literary and academic legacy of Zora Neale Hurston. Finally, in “Ishmael Reed Gets the Last Laugh”, Julian Lucas paints the portrait of a superb satirist, novelist, literary swindler and multiculturalist. “There has always been more to Reed than subversion and caricature,” Lucas writes. “The laughter, in his books, unearths legacies suppressed by prejudice, elitism, and mass media co-optation.”

David Remnick

How Edward St. Aubyn made literature a poisoned legacy.

Anton Chekov in a jacket sitting in a car with a view of flowering trees through the window

Anton Chekhov on the road.

Ismael Reed.
Ishmael Reed gets the last laugh

America’s most fearless satirist has seen his wildest fictions come true.

An illustration by George Eliot

What George Eliot teaches us.

Black and white photograph of a woman wearing a sweater and hat, smiling

Zora Neale Hurston, upsetting American.

Maria D. Ervin