The Simple World

Pierre is one of Herman Melville’s least-known novels and, in my opinion, the best; it’s more like an early Henry James novel, ambiguous and elliptical, than it is like Moby-Dick or Billy Budd.

In the operative opinion of this world, he who is already fully provided with what is necessary for him, that man shall have more; while he who is deplorably destitute of the same, he shall have taken away from him even that which he hath. Yet the world vows it is a very plain, downright matter-of-fact, plodding, humane sort of world. It is governed only by the simplest principles, and scorns all ambiguities, all transcendentals, and all manner of juggling.

–Herman Melville, Pierre: Or, the Ambiguities

 

A Little Life Isn’t the Great Gay Novel. It’s a Fetishistic Portrait of the Perfect Victim.

 

The cover of my edition of A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 Booker- and National Book Award-nominated novel, is a close-up, black-and-white photograph of a man crying. It may be the most perfectly thematic cover ever designed, because this novel, falsely advertised as a novel about four college friends, is actually a close-up, nuance-averse portrait of one man’s relentless suffering.

Continue reading →