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barry werth   Newton Arvin had been all but forgotten until Barry Werth resurrected his story in The New Yorker, the story of a brilliant man--once one of America's leading literary critics--whose career was wrecked by a homosexual pornography scandal in 1960. In the aftermath of the Clinton impeachment, the invasion of Arvin's privacy and a Puritan uproar over what it deemed prurient sexual activity has powerful resonance.

A character in the title story of Chitra Divakaruni's new book of stories, The Unknown Error of Our Lives, acknowledges, "An unexamined life is not worth living." Accordingly, nearly all of Divakaruni's characters are re-examining their lives in some way. One young woman realizes, upon undertaking a journey to a holy Indian shrine, that she'll learn more about her native India from a stigmatized, shunned woman who is also along on the pilgrimage. Another character realizes she can love her own child even more after a dreaded, but ultimately gratifying visit from her estranged parent.

These stories vary in setting--from California, to Vermont, to Kashmir--but they all possess at least one common element. In re-examining their own lives, these characters inevitably discover failure and error. But just behind this failure follows success, just behind the erroneous follows pleasure.

This issue of Bold Type offers up the wonderfully narrated title story from Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's collection The Unknown Errors of Our Lives.

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