Edwidge Danticat on "Masters of the Dew"

Haitian writer and activist Jacques Roumain (1907-44) straddled, and fused, the worlds of politics and art during his relatively short life.

The grandson of a former president, he was raised in comfort and educated abroad, including in Switzerland, Spain (where he developed an interest in bullfighting), Germany and France.

But his youth was also shaped by Haiti’s subjugation during its long occupation by the United States (1915-34).

Jim Shepard Imagines the Next Pandemic

Can Jim Shepard tell the future?

How else to account for the fact he had nearly completed his novel about a global pandemic, Phase Six, before COVID-19 descended on the planet?

Although Shepard’s seventh novel is triggered by an epidemic that is killing millions around the world, it focuses on three people: the young boy from Greenland, Aleq, who became patient zero and the two female scientists, Jeannine and Danice, who try to identify the pathogen that kills about a 33% of those who contract it (COVID’s morality rate is less than 1%).

Charles Palliser on "Anton Reiser"

Nowadays, many writers follow a straight line—an elite education, MFA degree and publication.

The German author Karl Phillip Moritz (1756-93) had plenty of schooling before literary success, but his life was a jagged line. Born poor, he received just a smidgen of formal education before he was apprenticed to a hatmaker at age 12. But he clearly had a sharp mind – and also a troubled one that would haunt his days - and so patrons financed his study of theology.

Michael Griffith on Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis is widely considered Brazil’s Shakespeare. The critic Harold Bloom included him on his list of the 100 greatest literary geniuses – alongside Dante, Cervantes and, of course, the Sweet Swan of Avon.

Through innovative novels, poems, short stories and plays, the 19th century writer (1839-1908) spun compelling tales that pierced the veil between the imagination and objective reality. Some critics have described his work as Romantic Realism.

Allan Gurganus

Allan Gurganus is good for the mind and the soul.

His brand new collection, The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus, offers nine smart and thoroughly entertaining tales that overflow with news of the spirit. His characters are far from perfect – but Gurganus loves them, warts and all, depicting them with a radical dignity. As they often make us laugh out loud, his stories show us how we ought to think and feel toward one another when guided by our better angels.

J. Peder Zane on Miguel Cervantes

Don Quixote has been challenging my honor for decades.

“You want the world to think you are well-read, a true Señor of letters,” he admonished each time I looked up at him on the shelf. “You may even believe it yourself. Yet here I sit, my spine miraculously strong and stiff; a joke you would appreciate if you knew me.”

Once I reminded him that I had read the first 75 of his 940 pages – which is actually two books for goodness sake. Big mistake: “Then you, sir, are both a fraud and a quitter.”

As he spat those words, I heard his fellow guilt trippers, Andrew Bolkonski and Dorthea Brooke, snickering.

Jonathan Lethem

What would you do if one day all technology began to fail you? If slowly but surely, cell phones ceased to make calls, airplanes refused to lift off the ground and the Internet was no more? Imagine yourself in this scenario and you’ve transported to the reality of Jonathan Lethem’s latest novel, The Arrest.