Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Briefly Noted

The Family Gene, by Joselin Linder (Ecco). When the author was sixteen, her father fell ill with a mysterious, debilitating, and ultimately fatal disease. "We were not a family who routinely dealt with catastrophe. We lived in Ohio," she drolly observes. Twelve years later, she had contracted the disease. By then, researchers were closer to identifying the cause--a genetic variant unique to her Ashkenazi Jewish family. This surprisingly buoyant book chronicles the search for a cure as well as the family's life stories, rich in their ordinariness. Describing how it feels to face the likelihood of a shortened life--including her conflicted desire to be a mother, despite the risks for any child--Linder reminds us that hope "isn't the same thing as truth."

Somebody with a Little Hammer, by Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon). While Gaitskill is best known for her fiction, this collection demonstrates her power as an essayist, and thrums with the same sexual energy. Many of the topics (foot fetishists, date rape, "Lolita") are squarely in her wheelhouse; others less so (the 2008 election, Dickens, Talking Heads). The most memorable pieces hinge on unexpected connections that illuminate both Gaitskill and her subject. An essay on the Book of Revelation, which recalls a period when she was a born-again Christian, is especially revealing: walking through the city, she felt "angels and beasts looming all about us, incomprehensible and invisible to our senses."

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, by Hannah Tinti (Dial). …

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