An Interview with Parul Sehgal

Zachary Fine in The Oxonian Review:

Part of the pleasure of reading Parul Sehgal’s book reviews when she served as a critic for The New York Times was the impression that her prose had slipped past the censors. Some of her sentences had the crispness of newspaper copy but others were much more blurred and atmospheric. You could watch her trialing an idea, circling it with adjectives, letting it rise with the sound of the words.

Here I sit, having just completed a novel that lines up these pieties and threatens to dispatch them with calm and ruthless efficiency . . . it is most thoroughly and exuberantly about the hunched, clammy, lightly paranoid, entirely demented feeling of being ‘very online’—the relentlessness of performance required, the abdication of all inwardness, subtlety and good sense.

This in The New York Times? And not an anomaly but every week, give or take, for four years. Her pieces were elliptical, slightly wry, unafraid to double back on themselves. One could sense that she was thrilling to the limits of the form and not simply meeting a deadline. ‘Book reviewing’, she said, ‘can get a bad rap as glorified book reports, when it really is this amazing instrument, this vocabulary of pleasure.’

More here.