Marina Carr, By the Bog of Cats

By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr My rating: 3 of 5 stars Like many a literary work of the so-called postmodern period, Marina Carr's famous 1998 play By the Bog of Cats is a critical echo chamber of prior texts, whether near or far in space and time from its setting in the … Continue reading Marina Carr, By the Bog of Cats

Charles Portis, True Grit

True Grit by Charles Portis My rating: 4 of 5 stars Charles Portis, often hailed as a great but unsung American writer, died last month, so I read his most famous novel in memoriam. True Grit, published in 1968, is a Western and a bildungsroman. It is the elderly Mattie Ross's first-person recollection as she … Continue reading Charles Portis, True Grit

J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World and Riders to the Sea

The Playboy of the Western World & Riders to the Sea by J.M. Synge My rating: 5 of 5 stars Yesterday for St. Patrick's Day I read these two classic early 20th-century dramas by the Irish playwright J. M. Synge. The texts I used were from the first edition of the Norton Critical Modern Irish … Continue reading J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World and Riders to the Sea

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

The Color Purple by Alice Walker My rating: 3 of 5 stars Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer-Prize-winning, Spielberg-filmed, Oprah-inspiring novel is a contentious contemporary classic. It remains widely read and loved but both the novel and its author have been scrutinized for every sin from New Age sentimentality to complicity with racism. In fewer than 300 … Continue reading Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Jack Kirby, Fourth World

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus by Jack Kirby My rating: 3 of 5 stars Jack Kirby (1917-1994) was and remains the most revered artist in the tradition of American superhero comics. Born to working-class Jewish immigrants in New York City, he was there as a hustling and prolific young artist at the superhero genre's foundation … Continue reading Jack Kirby, Fourth World

Don DeLillo, Great Jones Street

Great Jones Street by Don DeLillo My rating: 3 of 5 stars Don DeLillo's third novel, Great Jones Street (1973), is often billed as a classic rock and roll novel, but readers who expect an inside look at the rock scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s will be disappointed. The narrator and protagonist, … Continue reading Don DeLillo, Great Jones Street

Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts by Clive James My rating: 3 of 5 stars Is it possible to ask, without sounding like a morbid troublemaker, why the death of Clive James last November was not greeted with the outpouring of vituperation that marked Harold Bloom's demise the month before? Granted, Bloom … Continue reading Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Joan Didion, A Book of Common Prayer

A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion My rating: 3 of 5 stars Joan Didion, though a journalist and a novelist, is a lyric writer. Purporting to give facts or tell a story, she conveys her own sensibility. I praised her for it when reviewing Play It as It Lays, as good a lyric … Continue reading Joan Didion, A Book of Common Prayer

John Updike, Rabbit Is Rich

Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike My rating: 3 of 5 stars There are two kinds of male authors you love to hate. The first is well-known and easily explicable: Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Ralph Ellison, Cormac McCarthy. Their works are all masculine self-assertion and lighting out for the territory; they describe the … Continue reading John Updike, Rabbit Is Rich

My Year in Books, 2019

I took a brief hiatus from writing these reviews in August and September. During that break, I read Cormac McCarthy's Suttree, a 1979 novel sometimes cited as its author's masterpiece, and not only because it is his longest single work. Influenced by Ulysses, Herzog, and Henry Miller, Suttree is a plotless, ribald, melancholy city novel: … Continue reading My Year in Books, 2019