These days, when sampling newly published works of American fiction, one often feels less like a reader than like a psychoanalyst. One feels, in other words, as if one is witnessing a confession of the writer’s own personal history—or, at least, some semi-imaginative variation upon it—and is expected to respond with commentary, advice, or words of sympathy. That many of these new works are written in the first person does little to dispel this impression. This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong, per se, with autobiographical fiction. After all, such distinguished works as Remembrance of Things Past and The Sun Also Rises are heavily autobiographical (and written in the first person, to boot). But these novels represent highly accomplished acts of artistic distancing, of self-objectification; at the end of each of them one feels not merely that one has rummaged around inside a...


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