General book blog.

Veblen, Thorstein. What Veblen Thought: Selections from the Writings of Thorstein Veblen. New York. 1936. Viking Press. . Edited by Wesley C. Mitchell. 503 pages. hardcover.


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‘A man in advance of his age, repudiated by his generation, may appear in historical perspective to have been the most authentic spokesman for what that generation was adding to culture.’ – From Dr. Mitchell’s Introduction. Thorstein Veblen represents the point in America's intellectual history at which Darwinism was brought into the backward science of economics. No man was better fitted temperamentally or better equipped in scholarship to perform this function. His economic heresies are notorious, but his reward lies in the speed with which, since his death, his ideas have grown into contemporaneity. An essay such as ‘The Case of America,’ written in 1923, is not only a profound explanation of the American small town, but is the equal of Main Street in its satirical trenchancy. This volume is for those who wish to refresh their knowledge of Veblen's teachings, who want to grasp in compact form his major contributions, and for those who do not yet know Veblen and do not choose to read ten or twelve separate volumes. Dr. Mitchell, one of Veblen's best-known pupils, has selected the clearest, most forceful expressions of Veblen's leading ideas: criticisms of orthodox economics in the light of other sciences; satiric studies of the leisure class and other effects of the money psychology; distinctions between pecuniary and industrial employments, between the business man and the engineer; the past of Europe and the future of America; perpetual world peace, and so on. The result might be called the essence of Veblenism.



Veblen ThorsteinThorstein Bunde Veblen (born Torsten Bunde Veblen; July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was an American economist and sociologist, and leader of the institutional economics movement. Veblen is credited for the main technical principle used by institutional economists, known as the Veblenian dichotomy. It is a distinction between what Veblen called 'institutions' and 'technology'. Besides his technical work, Veblen was a popular and witty critic of capitalism, as illustrated by his best-known book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). Veblen is famous in the history of economic thought for combining a Darwinian evolutionary perspective with his new institutionalist approach to economic analysis. He combined sociology with economics in his masterpiece, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), where he argued that there was a fundamental split in society between those who make their way via exploitation and those who make their way via industry. In hunter-gatherer societies, this was the difference between the hunter and the gatherer in the tribe, but in feudalism, it became the difference between the landed gentry and the indentured servant. In society's progressively modernized forms, those with the power to exploit are known as the 'leisure class', defined by a commitment to demonstrations of idleness and a lack of productive economic activity. Veblen maintains that as societies mature, conspicuous leisure gives way to 'conspicuous consumption'. Both are performed to demonstrate wealth or mark social status. While Veblen was sympathetic to state ownership of industry, he did not support labor movements of the time. Scholars mostly disagree about the extent to which Veblen's views are compatible with Marxism, socialism, or anarchism. Veblen believed that technological developments would eventually lead to a socialist economy, but his views on socialism and the nature of the evolutionary process of economics differed sharply from Karl Marx's. While Marx saw socialism as the immediate precursor to communism and the ultimate goal for civilization to be achieved by the working class, Veblen saw socialism as an intermediate phase in an ongoing evolutionary process in society that would arise due to natural decay of the business enterprise system. As a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, Veblen made sweeping attacks on production for profit, and the emphasis on the wasteful role of consumption for status found within many of his works greatly influenced socialist thinkers and engineers who sought a non-Marxist critique of capitalism. Wesley C. Mitchell was a disciple of Thorstein Veblen and a founder of the institutionalist school of which Veblen is considered the father.





Ochiagha, Terri. Achebe and Friends at Umuahia: The Making of a Literary Elite. Rochester. 2018. Boydell & Brewer/James Currey. 9781847011961. 10 b/w illustrations. 216 pages. paperback. Front cover: School House 1945, Government College, Umuahia.

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This is the first in-depth scholarly study of the literary awakening of the young intellectuals who became known as Nigeria’s “first-generation” writers in the post-colonial period. Terri Ochiagha’s research focuses on Chinua Achebe, Elechi Amadi, Chike Momah, Christopher Okigbo and Chukwuemeka Ike, and also discusses the experiences of Gabriel Okara, Ken Saro-Wiwa and I.C. Aniebo, in the context of their education in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s at Government College, Umuahia. The author provides fresh perspectives on Postcolonial and World literary processes, colonial education in British Africa, literary representations of colonialism and Chinua Achebe’s seminal position in African literature. She demonstrates how each of the writers used this very particular education to shape their own visions of the world in which they operated and examines the implications that this had for African literature as a whole.



Ochiagha TerriTERRI OCHIAGHA holds one of the prestigious British Academy Newton International Fellowships (2014-16) hosted by the School of English, University of Sussex. She was previously a Senior Associate Member of St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford.








O'Neill, Heather. Wisdom in Nonsense: Invaluable Lessons from My Father. Edmonton. 2018. University of Alberta Press. 9781772123777. 64 pages. paperback.


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Acclaimed novelist Heather O’Neill structures her book around ten key lessons she learned in childhood from her father. Wryly humorous and generous, she shares memories and stories that illustrate why it is good to steal things, why one should learn to play the tuba, and why one should never keep a journal. Her unusual mentors went well beyond her janitor father to include ex-bank robbers and homeless men. These eccentric teachers taught her about the circuitous alleyways of semantics and the depth of moral philosophy. O’Neill’s intimate recollections make Wisdom in Nonsense the perfect companion to her widely praised debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals (HarperCollins). Co-published with Canadian Literature Centre/Centre de littérature canadienne.



ONeill HeatherHeather O’Neill is a novelist, poet, short-story writer, screenwriter, and essayist. Her work has been shortlisted for many prestigious awards. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.










Schwab, Gustav. Gods and Heroes: Myths and Epics of Ancient Greece. New York. 1946. Pantheon. Introduction by Werner Jaeger. With 100 illustrations from Greek Vase Paintings. 764 pages. hardcover.


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The Greek gods and heroes live on to this day, and their human significance remains valid for all men. The Greek myths have been the inexhaustible treasure house for the poetry and philosophy of the Greeks themselves and of later centuries. No other popular version of Greek mythology has achieved such enduring fame as Gustav Schwab's legends and tales of antiquity, translated here for the first time into English. They have delighted many generations, and no similar attempt has surpassed them. In an amazing work of reconstruction, Schwab wove together the scattered fragments of the mythological tales into a continuous, coherent narrative. He went back to the most varied antique sources - to Hesiod and Homer, to the great Athenian tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, but also to Ovid - and he transcribed them as literally as possible. Through this device his work shares the timeless quality of its prototypes. This book is meant not only for children, but also for the childlike spirit of the young and old alike. It conveys a breath of the imperishable strength of youth in Greek genius. A detailed index representing a condensed mythological dictionary supplements the text.


Schwab GustavGustav Benjamin Schwab (19 June 1792 – 4 November 1850) was a German writer, pastor and publisher. Gustav Schwab was born in Stuttgart, the son of the philosopher Johann Christoph Schwab: he was introduced to the humanities early in life. After attending Gymnasium Illustre, he studied as a scholar of Tübinger Stift at Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, his first two years studying Philology and Philosophy, and thereafter Theology. While at university he established a literary club and became a close friend of Ludwig Uhland, Karl Varnhagen and Justinus Kerner, with whom he published a collection of poems under the title Deutscher Dichterwald. In the spring of 1813, he made a journey to northern Germany, where he met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Friedrich Rückert, Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, Adelbert von Chamisso and others. In 1818 he became a high school teacher in Stuttgart, and in 1837 he started work as a pastor in Gomaringen, near Tübingen. In 1841, he moved back to Stuttgart, where he was first pastor and then from 1845 educational counselor for Stuttgart's high school system. In 1847 he received an honorary Doctorate from his old university. Schwab's collection of myths and legends of antiquity, Sagen des klassischen Altertums, published from 1838 to 1840, was widely used at German schools and became very influential for the reception of classical antiquity in German classrooms. In his later years, he traveled regularly to Überlingen am Bodensee to enjoy the waters at the city's spa; he died in Stuttgart in 1850.





Ogden, Daniel. The Werewolf in the Ancient World. New York. 2021. Oxford University Press. 9780198854319. 272 pages. hardcover.


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In a moonlit graveyard somewhere in southern Italy, a soldier removes his clothes in readiness to transform himself into a wolf. He depends upon the clothes to recover his human shape, and so he magically turns them to stone, but his secret is revealed when, back in human form, he is seen to carry a wound identical to that recently dealt to a marauding wolf. In Arcadia a man named Damarchus accidentally tastes the flesh of a human sacrifice and is transformed into a wolf for nine years. At Temesa Polites is stoned to death for raping a local girl, only to return to terrorize the people of the city in the form of a demon in a wolfskin. Tales of the werewolf are by now well established as a rich sub-strand of the popular horror genre; less widely known is just how far back in time their provenance lies. These are just some of the werewolf tales that survive from the Graeco-Roman world, and this is the first book in any language to be devoted to their study. It shows how in antiquity werewolves thrived in a story-world shared by witches, ghosts, demons, and soul-flyers, and argues for the primary role of story-telling-as opposed to rites of passage-in the ancient world's general conceptualization of the werewolf. It also seeks to demonstrate how the comparison of equally intriguing medieval tales can be used to fill in gaps in our knowledge of werewolf stories in the ancient world, thereby shedding new light on the origins of the modern phenomenon. All ancient texts bearing upon the subject have been integrated into the discussion in new English translations, so that the book provides not only an accessible overview for a broad readership of all levels of familiarity with ancient languages, but also a comprehensive sourcebook for the ancient werewolf for the purposes of research and study.


Ogden DanielDaniel Ogden comes from Manchester and was educated at the University of Oxford. He is currently Professor of Ancient History at the University of Exeter, having previously taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (NY), the University of Oxford, and University College, Swansea. He has published widely on ancient Greek myth, religion, and magic, as well as traditional narratives, reproduction and sexuality, and Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic dynasties.






Beti, Mongo. Mission to Kala. London. 1958. Frederick Muller. Translated by Peter Green from the French novel Mission terminée (1957). 207 pages. hardcover. 


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Here, at last, is an African novel untinged by political pleading, richly exuberant, vivid, humorous and disarming. The hero, Medza, is a young Negro from the French Cameroons who has just failed his exams at college, and returns to his native village in some fear of his father's reaction. He finds the whole place humming with scandal; a man's wife has gone off with a member of an up-country tribe. Someone must go and get her back. In these parts a scholar (even a failed one) has extraordinary prestige, and Medza finds himself saddled with this delicate mission. When he reaches the woman's village he has to wait for her return from another adventure, so he stays with some colourful and eccentric relations who pass him off as a prodigy of learning. Medza is entertained, given every luxury, and consulted like an oracle. Even though his canny uncle filches half the presents he receives, Medza does very well. Naturally, the girls flock round him, but he can't summon up enough courage to admit that the more sophisticated and enterprising among them frighten him out of his wits. How Medza finds himself married, how he comes to the end of his mission and what - surprisingly - happens then, is told in this delightful book. Characters, background and customs are described with infectious gaiety and the sharply original style rounds off an achievement which proves that here is a new African novelist of indisputable talent.


Beti MongoAlexandre Biyidi Awala (30 June 1932 - 8 October 2001), known as Mongo Beti, was a Cameroonian writer. Though he lived in exile for many decades, Beti's life reveals an unflagging commitment to improvement of his home country. As one critic wrote after his death, ‘The militant path of this essayist, chronicler and novelist has been governed by one obsession: the quest for the dignity of African people.’The son of Oscar Awala and Régine Alomo, Alexandre was born in 1932 at Akométan, a small village 10 km from Mbalmayo, itself 45 km away from Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon. (The village's name comes from Akom ‘rock’ and Etam ‘source’: in old maps of the region, the name is written in two parts). From an early age, Beti was influenced by the currents of rebellion sweeping Africa in the wake of World War II. His father drowned when Beti was seven, and he was raised by his mother and extended family. Beti recalls arguing with his mother about religion and colonialism; he also recalls early exposure to the opinions and analysis of independence leader Ruben Um Nyobe, both in the villages and at Nyobe's private residence. He carried these views into the classroom, and was eventually expelled from the missionary school in Mbalmayo for his outspokenness. In 1945 he entered the lycée Leclerc in Yaoundé. Graduating in 1951, he came to France to continue his higher education in literature, first at Aix-en-Provence, then at the Sorbonne in Paris. By the early 1950s, Beti had turned to writing as a vehicle of protest. He wrote regularly for the journal Présence Africaine; among his pieces was a review of Camara Laye's Black Child that criticized Laye for what Beti saw as pandering to European tastes. He began his career in fiction with the short story Sans haine et sans amour (‘Without hatred or love’), published in the periodical Présence Africaine, edited by Alioune Diop, in 1953. Beti's first novel Ville cruelle (‘Cruel City’), under the pseudonym Eza Boto, followed in 1954, published in several editions of Présence Africaine. It was, however, in 1956 that he gained a widespread reputation; the publication of the novel Le pauvre Christ de Bomba (‘The poor Christ of Bomba’) created a scandal because of its satirical and biting description of the missionary and colonial world. Under pressure from the religious hierarchy, the colonial administrator in Cameroon banned the novel in the colony. This was followed by Mission terminée, 1957 (winner of the Prix Sainte Beuve 1958), and Le Roi miraculé, 1958. He also worked during this time for the review Preuves, for which he reported from Africa. He worked also as a substitute teacher at the lycée of Rambouillet. In 1959, he was named certified professor at the lycée Henri Avril in Lamballe. He took the Agrégation de Lettres classiques in 1966 and taught at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen. from this date until 1994. Following Nyobe's assassination by French forces in 1958, however, Beti fell silent as a writer for more than a decade, remaining in exile from his homeland. After his death,Odile Tobner noted that exile was not easy on Beti; he remained tortured by his concern for his embattled country.In 1972 he re-entered the world of literature with a bang. His book Main basse sur le Cameroun, autopsie d'une décolonisation ('Cruel hand on Cameroon, autopsy of a decolonization') was censored upon its publication by the French Ministry of the Interior Raymond Marcellin on the request, brought forward by Jacques Foccart, of the Cameroon government, represented in Paris by the ambassador Ferdinand Oyono. The essay, a critical history of recent Cameroon, asserted that Cameroon and other colonies remained under French control in all but name, and that the post-independence political elites had actively fostered this continued dependence. Beti was inspired to write in part by the execution of Ernest Ouandie by the government of Cameroon. In 1974 he published Perpétue and Remember Ruben; the latter was the first in a trilogy exploring the life and impact of Nyobe. After a long judicial action, Mongo Beti and his editor François Maspéro finally obtained, in 1976, the cancellation of the ban on the publication of Main basse. Beti returned to critical and political writing at the same time that he returned to fiction. In 1978 he and his wife Odile Tobner launched the bimonthly review Peuples Noirs. Peuples africains ('Black People. African People'), which was published until 1991. This review chronicled and denounced tirelessly the evils brought to Africa by neo-colonial regimes. During this period were published the novels La ruine presque cocasse d'un polichinelle (1979), Les deux mères de Guillaume Ismaël Dzewatama futur camionneur (1983), La revanche de Guillaume Ismaël Dzewatama (1984), also Lettre ouverte aux Camerounais ou la deuxième mort de Ruben Um Nyobé (1984) and Dictionnaire de la négritude (1989, with Odile Tobner). Frustrated by what he saw as the failure of post-independence governments to bring genuine freedom to Africa, Beti adopted a more radical perspective in these works. In exile, Beti remained vitally connected to the struggle in Cameroon. Throughout the seventies and eighties, acquaintance with Beti or his work could spell trouble for a citizen of Cameroon; on numerous occasions, Beti used his connections in France to rescue one of his young readers, many of whom knew him from his periodical and his polemical essays. Ambroise Kom, arrested merely for subscribing to Peuples noirs, was saved from incarceration by Beti's actions in France on his behalf. In 1991 Mongo Beti returned to Cameroon, after 32 years of self-imposed exile. In 1993 he published La France contre l'Afrique, retour au Cameroun; this book chronicles his visits to his homeland. After retiring from teaching in 1994, he returned to Cameroon permanently. Various business endeavors in Betiland failed; eventually, he opened in Yaoundé the Librairie des Peuples noirs (Bookstore of the Black Peoples) and organized agricultural activities in his village of Akometam. The goal of the bookshop was to encourage engaged literacy in the capital, and also to provide an outlet for critical texts and authors. During this period, Beti also supported John Fru Ndi, an anglophone opposition leader. He created associations for the defence of citizens and gave to the press numerous articles of protest. The government attempted to hinder his activities. On his first return to Cameroon, police prevented him from speaking at a scheduled conference; Beti instead addressed a crowd outside the locked conference room. He was subjected in January 1996, in the streets of Yaoundé, to police aggression. He was challenged at a demonstration in October 1997. In response he published several novels: L'histoire du fou in 1994 then the two initial volumes Trop de soleil tue l'amour (1999) et Branle-bas en noir et blanc (2000), of a trilogy which would remain unfinished. He was hospitalized in Yaoundé on October 1, 2001 for acute hepatic and kidney failure which remained untreated for lack of dialysis. Transported to the hospital at Douala on October 6, he died there on October 8, 2001. Some critics noted the similarity of his death to that of his heroine Perpetua, who also died while awaiting treatment in one of the country's overburdened hospitals. From beginning to end, Beti's work was informed by two principles. In terms of style, he was a realist. In a critical statement published in 1955, he asserted that ‘Given the modern conceptions of the beautiful in literature, given at the very least these essential conceptions, if a work is realistic it has many chances of being good; if not, supposing even that it has formal qualities, it risks lacking resonance, profundity, that of which all literature has the greatest need -- the human; from which it follows that it has much less chance of being good -- if only it had some -- than a realistic work.’ Beti's fiction remains true to this credo. Thematically, Beti's work is unified by an unwavering commitment to combatting colonialism, both overt and covert. Beti's aim always, even in his harsh criticism of Cameroon's independence government, was to strengthen African autonomy and prosperity. ‘Sans haine et sans amour’, 1953, is a short story and Beti's first significant work.





Dunning, Norma. Annie Muktuk and Other Stories. Edmonton. 2017. University of Alberta Press. 9781772122978. 204 pages. paperback. Cover image: 'Annie Pootoogook', a portrait.


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Eskimo, now that's a word. White word. White word for white people to wrap around their pink tongues. Esquimaux. Spell it any way you want and it still comes out the same, skid row and all. - from "Kabloona Red" In Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, Norma Dunning portrays the unvarnished realities of northern life through gritty characters who find themselves in difficult situations. Dunning grew up in a silenced form of Aboriginality, experiencing racism, assimilation, and colonialism; as she began exploring her Inukness, her writing bubbled up to the surface. Her stories challenge southern perceptions of the north and Inuit life through evocative, nuanced voices accented with Inuktitut words and symbolism. As with Alootook Ipellie's work, these short stories bring Inuit life into the reality of the present. Robert Kroetsch series



Dunning NormaNorma Dunning is an Inuit writer, scholar, researcher, and grandmother. Her creative work keeps her most grounded in the traditional Inuit ways of knowing and being. She lives in Edmonton.









Correira, David and Wall, Tyler. Police: A Field Guide. Brooklyn. 2018. Verso. 9781786630148. 278 pages. flex binding. Cover design by Matt Avery. Illustration by Lauren Nassef. 


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Radical glossary of the vocabulary of policing that redefines the very way we understand law enforcement. It doesn’t take firsthand experience to learn the meaning of pain compliance or rough ride. Police: A Field Guide is an illustrated handbook to the methods, mythologies, and history that animate today’s police. It is a survival manual for encounters with cops and police logic, whether it arrives in the shape of officer friendly, Tasers, curfews, non-compliance, or reformist discourses about so-called bad apples. In a series of short chapters, each focusing on a single term, such as the beat, order, badge, throw-down weapon, and much more, authors David Correia and Tyler Wall present a guide that reinvents and demystifies the language of policing in order to better prepare activists—and anyone with an open mind—on one of the key issues of our time: police brutality. In doing so, they begin to chart a future free of this violence—and of police.



David Correia is an associate professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of Properties of Violence: Law and Land Grant Struggle in Northern New Mexico. Tyler Wall is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee.








Serpell. Namwali. The Old Drift. London/New York. 2019. Hogarth. 9781781090497. 566 pages. hardcover. Cover illustration: Kai and Sunny.

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On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. The moral? To err is human. In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives – their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes – form a symphony about what it means to be human. From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines – this gripping, unforgettable novel sweeps over the years and the globe, subverting expectations along the way. Exploding with colour and energy, The Old Drift is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time. 'Extraordinary, ambitious, evocative… The Old Drift is an impressive book, ranging skillfully between historical and science fiction, shifting gears between political argument, psychological realism and rich fabulism…a dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage' SALMAN RUSHDIE.


Serpell. NamwaliNAMWALI SERPELL is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for women writers in 2011 and was selected for the Africa 39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. Her first published story, 'Muzungu', was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African writing. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for her story 'The Sack'. The Old Drift is her first novel.







Smith, Tracy K.. Wade in the Water: Poems. Minneapolis. 2018. Graywolf Press. 9781555978136. 86 pages. hardcover.


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In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. Smith’s signature voice―inquisitive, lyrical, and wry―turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence. Here, private utterance becomes part of a larger choral arrangement as the collection widens to include erasures of The Declaration of Independence and the correspondence between slave owners, a found poem comprised of evidence of corporate pollution and accounts of near-death experiences, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors’ reports of recent immigrants and refugees. Wade in the Water is a potent and luminous book by one of America’s essential poets.


Smith Tracy KTracy K. Smith is the United States Poet Laureate. She is the author of four acclaimed books of poetry, including Wade in the Water and Life on Mars, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Notable Book, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and a New Yorker, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. A professor of creative writing at Princeton University, she lives in Princeton with her family.







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