Annalisa Quinn

In Henry James's ambiguous, paranoid novella The Turn of the Screw (1898), a governess is left in charge of two children in an isolated Essex country house. Over time, she becomes convinced the children are communing with the ghosts of former servants, who appear to them, at first at a distance and then ever closer, threatening to lead them to damnation. By the end, a child is dead, but we still don't know: Were the ghosts real, or were they in the governess's head?

If Jess Row, born in 1974, received a legacy from the white writers of the 20th century, it was one of "silences, defensive postures, lacunae, conscious and unconscious self-limitations" on the subject of race.

But that doesn't mean race is absent from their work, as he notes in his new book White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination: "even writers who would seem to have almost nothing to say about race...are saying a great deal."

In 1997, Emily Nussbaum was a doctoral student at NYU, studying literature and "foggily planning on becoming a professor," when an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed her life.

At the turn of this century, television was still considered unserious, "a disposable product, like a Dixie Cup," Nussbaum writes. It was also bad for you — in "the much-quoted (although possibly apocryphal) words of '90s comic Bill Hicks," it was "a spiritually harmful act, like 'taking black spray paint to your third eye.' "

As the most visible reporter to regularly spar with the president, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta is a disputed icon.

President Trump has called Acosta a "rude, terrible person" and "fake news." To many on the right, he represents deep media bias; to some on the left, he represents media pushback against Trump's frequent lies. In his daily life, he is subject to near-constant abuse, insults and threats — along with some praise and a lot of selfie requests.

"In truth, no one expects any kind of story from a woman like me," writes the narrator of Sara Collins' intricate gothic novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton. "Like me" means a former slave from Jamaica, awaiting trial for the brutal murder of her new employers.

Long considered fringe, the right wing radio host Mark Levin has had a few good years: He picked up a weekly Fox News show ("Life, Liberty & Levin"); he counts conservative political commentator Sean Hannity as his best friend; and the president recently tweeted in support of his new book, "Word is out that book is GREAT!"

"Sometime in the last few years," American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis writes in White, his aggrieved new book about political correctness, he began feeling a near-constant sense of "disgust and frustration that was all due to the foolishness of other people."

"We're your oldest friend, your ancient enemy ..." warn the chorus of Namwali Serpell's lush speculative novel The Old Drift.

Can you guess who they are? "We're perfectly matched ..." they say. "We're both useless, ubiquitous species. But while you all rule the earth and destroy it for kicks, we linger and loaf, unsung heroes. We've been around here as long as you have — for eons before, say the fossils."

The scene could have come from a novel: an unlocked door, a screaming maid, and an "unobtrusive minor aristocrat" lying in bed with his throat cut.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were once seen as moderating influences within the White House. A new book by longtime Vanity Fair journalist Vicky Ward, Kushner, Inc., portrays them instead as coiffed agents of chaos — lying, scamming and backstabbing their way through Donald Trump's Washington.

"Everyone knows there is a good Jill and a bad Jill."

In her new book, Merchants of Truth, Jill Abramson writes that this is what New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said to her before he gave her the job of executive editor in 2011.

The Water Cure, a tart, uncanny debut novel by Sophie Mackintosh, is an unlikely thought experiment that asks: What if men were literally as well as figuratively toxic?

"These were knife-edge times, primal times, with everybody suspicious of everybody," says middle sister, the narrator of Anna Burns's brutally intelligent novel Milkman, set amid the Troubles in 1970's Northern Ireland.

There were the general Troubles, of course, but middle sister's specific troubles begin when a powerful paramilitary figure called the milkman (he's not a milkman) starts offering her rides home. She says no, but he begins trailing her, insinuating himself, making oblique threats.

Bernie Sanders will not say he is running for president. Instead, he employs a familiar dodge: "The year 2020 remains a long way off."

But Where We Go From Here is unmistakably a campaign book, which means that, like almost all campaign books, it is boring.

Many campaign books are ghostwritten and scraped free of controversy and doubts; these are not books in any meaningful sense of the word, but tools to generate publicity and "Is he or isn't he running?" speculation in the press.

"I am not angry. If anything, I am tired," Korede says, faced with yet another bloody crime scene to scour, yet another body to dump. The first few times, her beautiful sister Ayoola's self-defense claims seemed plausible, but the bodies have added up. And Korede Googled it: Three murders makes you a serial killer.

"If you could see every bird in the world, you'd see the whole world," writes Jonathan Franzen in The End of the End of the Earth. In the new collection of previously published essays — spanning art, nature and autobiography — he travels the world finding hope in things with feathers.

Sarah Perry's new novel, Melmoth, opens with an imperative: "Look!" The object of our gazes is Helen Franklin, 42, "small, insignificant, having about her an air ... of self-punishment, of self-hatred, carried out quietly and diligently and with a minimum of fuss."

Donald Trump "personally directed" efforts to silence Stormy Daniels, The Wall Street Journal reported for the first time Tuesday morning.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, will be unsurprised.

"Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles ... How the epithets pile up," begins The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker's tart retelling of the Iliad from the perspective of Achilles' concubine, Briseis.

"We never called him any of those things," she continues, "we called him 'the butcher.'"

Editor's note: This review includes some graphic language about sex and other adult themes.

"Today marks my sixteenth year on this hot, horrible earth," begins Ponti, the debut novel by Singapore-born writer Sharlene Teo. From there, everything just gets hotter and more horrible.

"I used to hope that puberty would morph me," the book's primary narrator, Szu, continues, "that one day I'd uncurl from my chrysalis, bloom out beautiful. No luck! Acne instead. Disgusting hair. Blood."

The word "nice" is a persistent problem for journalists Michael D'Antonio and Peter Eisner in their new, hostile biography of Mike Pence, The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence.

The truth about Pence, according to them, is that he is a sinister zealot, an opportunist, and a "Christian supremacist" biding his time until he can take over the presidency from Donald Trump.

But here's the problem: Sources keep calling Pence things like "nice." Luckily, D'Antonio and Eisner have a strategy — they just pretend that "nice" means its opposite.

First, Nell Stevens wrote Bleaker House, a memoir about failing to write a novel. Now, in The Victorian and the Romantic, she has written a memoir about struggling to write her doctoral dissertation.

Writing about how writing is hard tends to be solipsistic and dreary, but these procrastination-born books have, instead, a kind of truant charm — like they know they should really be the other, more serious thing, the great work, but we're all here now so we may as well go get a drink.

Sean Spicer — testy, stumbling, and visibly unhappy — was not a very good press secretary. He seemed to dislike lying; the strain of it was evident.

Sarah Sanders, with her unembarrassed and bullish ability to just keep going, no matter how implausible the message, is much more convincing. Spicer just looked like the avatar of the Republican Party's moral crisis, sweating in a suit.

It was, he writes in The Briefing, his new memoir of his time in the Trump White house, "a lonely job."

Editor's note: This piece contains some graphic language about sex.

Last year, the singer Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, gave an interview to Rolling Stone about the launch of his solo career. The journalist asked him whether he was worried about proving his "credibility" as a solo artist to "an older crowd" — as in, people who are not teenage girls.

Helen DeWitt's Some Trick seems less like a story collection and more like a series of notes from some vast, alien intelligence, not quite human itself, but capable of picking apart human habits with startling precision. DeWitt's characters are savants, weirdos, and artists, often trying to achieve their ends against the best efforts of the well-meaning and conventional people around them.

In Curtis Sittenfeld's short story "Show Don't Tell" — not, sadly, included in her new collection, You Think it, I'll Say It — a young woman at a prestigious writing workshop competes for funding with an annoying guy in her program. Nearly 20 years later, they have both achieved a kind of literary success, but he is the kind of writer "about whom current students in the program have heated opinions; I'm the kind of writer their mothers read while recovering from knee surgery."

"Later, years later, I would hear a song made of our meeting," says the hero of Madeleine Miller's Circe, of her romance with the mortal Odysseus. Circe is referring to Homer's version of the story, in which Odysseus arrives on her island sea-battered and mourning for his men killed by the cruel Laestrygonians. Circe entraps his remaining men and turns them into pigs. But Odysseus, with the help of the god Hermes, tricks Circe and makes her beg for mercy before becoming her lover.

"With a good feeling, it was always: More. Again. Forever." Leslie Jamison's memoir The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath follows the story of her alcoholism in lush, almost caressing detail. "I mashed the lime in my vodka tonic and glimpsed — in the sweet spot between two drinks and three, then three and four, then four and five — my life as something illuminated from the inside."

At the beginning of Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion, shy, bookish Greer Kadetsky is groped at a frat party. Her best friend, "innately, bracingly political" Zee, urges her to report it, but Greer feels sick at the thought. "The idea that something had been done to you seemed to implicate you, even though no one said it did, making your body — which usually lived in darkness beneath your clothing — suddenly live in light."

"I am authorized to perform acts of justice, power, and retribution, to deliver messages of comfort and healing," begins the angel that wrestled with Jacob in Mallory Ortberg's adaptation of the Biblical story, "Fear Not: An Incident Log."

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