If Mille Bornes had been created in the United States, it almost certainly would not be about road racing. It would be about commuting.

[The previous assertion is almost certainly false. Mille Bornes, created in France in 1954, was likely based on the U.S. game Touring, patented in 1906. The distinction is likely less between American and French conceptions of car travel — and racing — than between conceptions of car travel at the beginning of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century.]

Were Mille Bornes an American game, the obstacles wouldn’t be quite so benign as…


It is difficult to not compare Russian Doll to Groundhog Day, but if one pushes past the first and second iterations, it’s a comparison that can bear fruit. Bill Murray’s Phil Connors and Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia Vulvokov are both prickly individuals trapped in a single repeating day (more or less — Thursday! What a concept!) for reasons whose metaphysics are never really explained. Groundhog Day, however, for all its pleasures, is a film that never entirely escapes its premise. Bill Murray is tasked with living a perfect day (and getting Andie MacDowell into bed) and eventually, he does (and he…


In 1078, St. Anselm of Canterbury formulated a peculiar proof of the existence of God. In each of our minds, Anselm argued, exists the idea of a being greater than which none can be conceived. Since a being that does not exist is necessarily lesser than a being that does exist, existence must be one of the qualities of this being. Thus the idea of God itself proves His existence. Quoting Hume’s response to Berkeley, my freshman philosophy professor described Anselm’s proof of the existence of God as an argument that admits of no answer and produces no conviction.

In…


It is difficult to be young, to see the world and to not have the tools yet to recognize it.

In Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses, a young man named Trond retreats with his father to a cabin by a river in the woods. Trond has a friend there, a young man named Jon who will be removed from Trond’s life by a tragedy for which Jon is neither entirely blameless nor entirely to blame.

Later, as Trond and his father and Jon’s father and mother clear trees and prepare to float them down the river to a mill in…


There are two big issues worth tackling after reading Ben Reiter’s Astroball (and ostensibly after reading Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, the book to which Astroball frames itself as spiritual successor, even though it really isn’t). …


I don’t know why I held off this long on reading Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. I have long adored the sumptuous visuals of Anthony Minghella’s 1996 adaptation, as well as Ralph Fiennes’ fox-like cartographer. There was a great deal of appeal to a boy at the end of his adolescence in a figure who seeks to live outside the bounds of the nation state, and seeks to escape history by falling headlong into it. There was something romantic in his failure to accomplish either of these things, and his almost languid destruction.

The book exceeds the novel by reducing…


Everyone knows that the avant garde novelist Kathy Acker died of breast cancer in 1997 in a Mexico alternative treatment center. What Olivia Laing’s novel Crudo presupposes is maybe she didn’t.

It’s not quite fair to say that Crudo is a parable — like Acker’s work Laing’s novel has little time for even the possibility of neat lessons — but there’s something about the ever-present unreality (a-reality? irreality?) in Acker, the irreconcilable, insistent absurdity of the everyday experience of those denied a place in the hierarchy of social propriety, the unclean, the unacceptable, the non-person, that speaks precisely to the…


It is not easy to write in fragments.

That is, it’s very easy to write in fragments, but it is difficult to write well and at length in fragments.

We live in fragments. The people we see in the morning are not the people we see at night. We travel often at length between the places we pay to live and work and the places we are paid to live and work. We travel home and inhabit a version of the self we were around the people who were around when we were in the place that was home. …


Shūsaku Endō’s novel about a Jesuit priest who clandestinely enters Japan in 1639 in the face of the prohibition of Christianity frames itself initially as something of a mystery. Reports have returned to Portugal that Christóvão Ferreira, a respected missionary and theologian who has spent more than thirty years as a leader in Japan’s Christian community, has renounced his faith and apostatized under torture. …


When I was in high school, I wrote a story about a boy who was in love with his cousin and ends up dying tragically when she hits him with her car. I wrote the story longhand in a spiral notebook and, when a friend read it, she told me that she was a bit upset with me when she realized that it wasn’t true. It was probably a better compliment than the story deserved.

What Remains of Edith Finch is a bit like that — the adolescent sense of being afraid of life and afraid of death and both…

Gavin Craig

Writer and critic

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