The [Insert Superlative Here] Books of 2011: My Year in Reading

I recently, and much belatedly, got around to reading Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism. It’s brilliant—not a word I use easily—and really deserves its own post, but there is a point on which Frye and I disagree, in practice if not in theory.  “The demonstrable value-judgement,” he claims in his introduction, “is the donkey’s carrot [...] where is the best place to play craps online

Like Things Glimpsed From a Train: James Salter’s Light Years

I’m in the throes of a renewed love affair with James Salter.  Every time I read Salter, I conclude all over again that he’s the best living stylist in English—and apparently I’m not alone.  In his introduction to Light Years, Richard Ford writes, “It is an article of faith among readers of fiction that James [...] top casino games

Reading in Tongues: The Radetzky March

It is a sad fact of studying languages that they are subject to rust.  Without active effort, it’s really only possible to get worse.  If I think about this too hard, or at all, I’m prone to get either sad or overzealous.  It’s the latter reaction, thankfully, that has produced this post.  “Reading in Tongues” [...] winpalace im banking

Tolstoy vs. Tolstoy

I first discovered the insurmountable problem that is translation as a high school Latin student, trying to muster a serviceable version of the Aeneid without perverting the stately, deliberate structure of Vergil’s sentences.  As it turns out, I’m not much of a translator: I get too wrapped up in the internal architecture of the language [...]

The James of the Jews: Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies

When I sat down to read Foreign Bodies, the new Cynthia Ozick novel that purports to be a “photographic negative” of Henry James’s The Ambassadors, I had two assumptions: 1) that I would like it less than The Ambassadors and 2) that the novel would lend itself to a fun game of who’s who.  The first [...]

On Books I Lie About Having Read

I have read Heart of Darkness. This is not a lie, but it was until yesterday.  Last month, Robert McCrum, in a short blog post in the Guardian, asked readers to share the most embarrassing gaps in their reading, as he himself trundled off on vacation with an unread copy of Middlemarch in tow.  The [...] virtual fusion bingo

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In Search of Sir Vidia

Lately I’ve been on a Naipaul kick, which is strange because I don’t particularly like his writing.  It was an odd case of reading the novels to understand the biography, rather than the other way around.  I’d been curious about Patrick French’s The World Is What It Is, the Naipaul bio of a couple years [...]

On Lionel Trilling and The Princess Casamassima

One of my favorite essays in Lionel Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination is “The Princess Casamassima,” his impassioned reading of Henry James’s 1886 novel.  It’s always seemed to me one of the most incisive accounts of how a novel might address the social role of politics without resorting to pamphleteering.  In this essay, Trilling declares James [...]