Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

The Parisian, by Isabella Hammad (Grove). In this début novel, a young Palestinian arrives in France at the outbreak of the First World War, to study medicine. Lodging with a professor, he experiences culture shock and an infatuation with his host’s daughter, but when he realizes that they see him as an object of curiosity, he leaves and mixes among Paris’s Arab intelligentsia. On his return to Palestine, he finds himself indelibly marked by his travels, set apart even as he participates in his homeland’s upheavals. Hammad uses the features of historical novels to cut through the familiar dichotomies of West and Near East, placing his protagonist in a rich web of families, political intrigues, and cultural exchanges, and subtly reconfiguring the literary tropes of “home” and “abroad.”

Feast Your Eyes, by Myla Goldberg (Scribner). Styled as an exhibition catalogue, this inventive novel charts the life of Lillian Preston, a mid-century street photographer, through a mix of personal letters, journal entries, interviews with friends, and commentary from her daughter. Lillian’s short career is dogged by poverty, single motherhood, an illegal abortion, and an obscenity trial; the cultural legacy of her remarkable, transgressive photographs is recognized only after her death. The catalogue format occasionally feels contrived, but Goldberg offers a searching consideration of the way that the identities and perceptions of a female artist shift over time.

Mama’s Last Hug, by Frans de Waal (Norton). …

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