From one of the most singular presences in American fiction comes a searingly intelligent book of essays on matters literary, social, cultural and personal. Whether she’s writing about date rape or political adultery or writers from John Updike to Gillian Flynn, Mary Gaitskill reads her subjects deftly and aphoristically and moves beyond them to locate the deep currents of longing, ambition, perversity, and loneliness in the American unconscious. She shows us the transcendentalism of the Talking Heads, the melancholy of Bjork, the playfulness of artist Laurel Nakadate. She celebrates the clownish grandiosity and the poetry of Norman Mailer’s long career and maps the sociosexual cataclysm embodied by porn star Linda Lovelace. And in the deceptively titled “Lost Cat,” she explores how the most intimate relationships may be warped by power and race. Witty, tender, beautiful and unsettling, Somebody with a Little Hammer displays the same heat-seeking, revelatory understanding for which we value Gaitskill’s fiction.