Commonplace Book in a Time of Plague

Some august world body said not to say "plague," but surely literary people have a dispensation? How far this dispensation extends we will discuss below. Right now, I reintroduce a poem I wrote and posted to this website in the fall of 2014. I was writing a lot of poetry then: I had been hired … Continue reading Commonplace Book in a Time of Plague

Commonplace Book: Perversity and Paranoia, Sade and Steiner

Mitchell Abidor reflects on "Reading Sade in the Age of Epstein," with a useful history of the notorious author's welcome reception by the 20th-century intelligentsia: Then, in the aftermath of World War II, there was an extraordinary explosion of analyses of Sade. Pierre Klossowski, in his 1947 Sade, mon prochain, claimed that Sade was a … Continue reading Commonplace Book: Perversity and Paranoia, Sade and Steiner

Commonplace Book: Moral Philosophy, Religious Criticism, the Hatred of Literature, and the New Censorship

[Introducing a new series of posts: Commonplace Book, a weekly compilation of links to things I've read, with occasional commentary. Commonplace Book takes over from my now-dormant Tumblr, grandhotelabyss, and this first entry, to ease us all into the transition, is comprised of recent Tumblr posts.] Agnes Callard, "Who Wants to Play the Status Game?": … Continue reading Commonplace Book: Moral Philosophy, Religious Criticism, the Hatred of Literature, and the New Censorship

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

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre My rating: 2 of 5 stars In the Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's classic 1938 first novel, you can find many of the characteristics of the last decade or two's contemporary fiction: fragmentation, negative affect, indifference to plot or style, veiled autobiography, and a general conviction of ambient meaninglessness lit only by … Continue reading Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Erich Auerbach, Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays

Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays by Erich Auerbach My rating: 5 of 5 stars [Elsewhere in the literary blogosphere—do people still say "blogosphere"?—Tom at Wuthering Expectations has wrapped up an informative and fun reading of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. This book was important to me at a phase in … Continue reading Erich Auerbach, Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays

I. F. Stone, The Trial of Socrates

The Trial of Socrates by I.F. Stone My rating: 4 of 5 stars If the independent left-wing journalist I. F. Stone had lived to write this 1988 bestseller in 2019 instead, he might have expressed its thesis this way: Socrates was an alt-right troll redpilling young men with corrosive irony and anti-democratic sentiment; therefore, democratic … Continue reading I. F. Stone, The Trial of Socrates

Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann My rating: 5 of 5 stars Far out to sea the water's as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass; but it's very deep, deeper than any anchor can reach. Many church steeples would have to be piled up one above the … Continue reading Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus

My Year in Books, 2018

Looking back, I see that I did a lot of rereading in 2018. Some of it was out of necessity (teaching), and some for pleasure. Some of it showed up in the reviews I post here, while some of it was devoted to books I've already written about in the last five years. I was … Continue reading My Year in Books, 2018