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Articles by Karen Vanuska


From the Archives: Uppity Blues

May 1, 2015
From the Archives: Uppity Blues

Master of the mannered sneak-attack, Kazuo Ishiguro has enraptured readers for years – including Karen Vanuska, who walks us through Nocturnes, his collection of linked stories.

Second Glance: The Wit and Woe of Mavis Gallant

February 18, 2014

We mourn the death of the great Canadian short story writer Mavis Gallant and are re-running Karen Vanuska’s moving appreciation from 2009 in tribute.

Midlife Magic

August 1, 2010

Emmanuel Carrere’s memoir is an uneasy blend of sexual fantasy and archival records, of a future with a beautiful young woman and a past haunted by a possible Nazi collaborator

Naught for the Naughty

November 1, 2009

In The Children’s Book, A.S. Byatt tells the long and complicated story of a family’s secrets; Karen Vanuska sheds some light in the corners.

Forgive Us Our Risks

September 1, 2009

Lydia Peelle revisits the territory of Southern fiction in her short story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, and Karen Vanuska treks the vivid terrain

Roots Into Entrails

May 1, 2009

A Nazi picaresque wouldn’t seem to be a likely read, but Karen Vanuska reviews a new reprint of Jakov Lind’s 1962 World War II novel Landscape in Concrete and finds its grim, absurd power undimmed by the years.

How to Wreck a Planet

May 1, 2009

Jeanette Winterson has made a career of pushing her prose poetry into different worlds. But by abandoning Earth altogether, has she left her readers stranded? Karen Vanuska heretically challenges The Stone Gods.

Rescue Pieces

April 1, 2009

Much critical buzz has accompanied Philipp Meyer’s debut novel American Rust (there’s talk of a Pulitzer)—Karen Vanuska cuts through the hype and attempts to nail down the thing itself.

Like Diamonds on Display

January 1, 2009

Karen Vanuska finds plenty to praise in Louise Erdrich’s The Red Convertible: New and Selected Stories—as well as some loose bolts and steam under the hood.

A Woman Walks Into Her Therapist’s Office…

November 1, 2008

Fans of Sylvia Brownrigg’s fiction admire the hidden complexity beneath its surface simplicity; we plumb the depths of The Delivery Room and Morality Tale with Karen Vanuska.

Murders Most Foul

October 1, 2008

What constitutes particularly Southern fiction? In reckoning Ron Rash’s Serena, Karen Vanuska goes below the Mason-Dixon line in search of something that sets Southern fiction apart – aside from all the dead bodies stacked like cordwood.

Second Glance: A Voice Displaced

September 1, 2008

Exiled Russian writer Nina Berberova (who fled to America when the Nazis invaded her adopted homeland of France) spent her entire career examining the experience of displacement. In this regular feature, Karen Vanuska revisits Berberova’s life and literary achievements and finds them startlingly relevant to our own fractured times.

Strange Bedfellows

July 1, 2008

In America America, a suburban everyman like those in Ethan Canin’s stories and novels finds himself in the center of a scandal that leads to a presidential hopeful’s ruin. Karen Vanuska explores how well Canin navigates his character through the bumptious subject of highstakes political intrigue.

The Best Intentions

June 1, 2008

As a startling suicide shows, evil is in the mundane details of Margot Livesey’s The House on Fortune Street. Karen Vanuska follows the novel’s four main characters and tries to tease out the peril beneath their most pedestrian actions.

Second Glance: A Compilation Too Far?

April 1, 2008

In his lifetime, E.B. White oversaw nearly a dozen collections of his essays; Karen Vanuska appraises a posthumous ingathering edited by Rebecca M. Dale and lets us know whether it adds to White’s legacy or merely overlaps it

Whispers Through the Curtain

December 1, 2007

For fifteen years a British and a Soviet family built a friendship by slipping letters past KGB censors. Karen Vanuska celebrates From Newbury with Love, a collection of their rich correspondence.

Under the Microscope

November 1, 2007

Andrea Barrett’s novels and stories have been quiet, restrained affairs, but, as Karen Vanuska reports, her new book The Air We Breathe is given a stimulating shot in the arm by the intrusion of World War I.

Some Assembly Required

July 1, 2007

Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero is a jarring experience, composed of
fractured images and plot strands. Karen Vanuska helps us put its
pieces together.

Limitless Apocalypse

June 1, 2007

Karen Vanuska reviews Jim Crace’s post-apocalyptic novel The Pesthouse, in which Americans seek salvation by emigrating to Europe. Hmm, think Crace might be trying to tell us something…?