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 [...]

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 [...]

David Grann’s Masterpiece Theater

Perhaps it’s the heat, or a more general summer lassitude, or the fact that the fat Hungarian novel I’m reading keeps breaking down into unidentified sub-narratives that I can only sort of follow, but my attention span of late has favored the short.  The highlight of the New Yorker backlog that piled up while I [...]

An Ill-Timed Meditation on Allegory

After several days of wandering in the Israeli desert—this was less biblical than it sounds; a bus was involved—I returned from my vacation in the Middle East to learn that José Saramago was dead.  My forays into the strange world of Saramago have been admittedly limited: I’ve read only Blindness and Seeing. But I think [...]

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