Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun

The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Marble Faun (1860) is Hawthorne's last completed and longest romance—his term for the type of non-realist, symbolic, and psychological fiction he preferred to write. Composed during and after his and his family's travels in Europe following his political patronage appointment as American consul … Continue reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun

Boris Groys, In the Flow

In the Flow by Boris Groys My rating: 4 of 5 stars For a long time, God was our anchor: the gaze of the deity secured our place in the universe, and the goal of art was to illustrate the works of God and to bring us closer to Him. With the displacement of God … Continue reading Boris Groys, In the Flow

César Aira, An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by César Aira My rating: 5 of 5 stars This short but grand 2000 novella, seemingly regarded as its prolific author’s masterpiece, is the story of the titular painter, the real-life German landscape artist, Johan Moritz Rugendas, as he suffers a life-altering accident on the Argentine … Continue reading César Aira, An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism

Anatomy of Criticism by Northrop Frye My rating: 5 of 5 stars If I had to choose one book as the foundation for an education in literary criticism and theory, I might choose Anatomy of Criticism; I wish I had read it much earlier. Even if one’s goal were the deconstruction of the concept of … Continue reading Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

In Praise of Shadows by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is Japanese novelist Tanizaki's important essay on aesthetics, one of the great twentieth-century manifestos, though that term suggests a brawling and list-making modernity that Tanizaki is at pains to eschew. In fact, In Praise of Shadows belongs, roughly, to the anti-modern … Continue reading Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

Don DeLillo, Libra

Libra by Don DeLillo My rating: 5 of 5 stars In earlier times, the bullet had been other things, because Pythagorean metempsychosis is not reserved for humankind alone. —Borges, "In Memoriam, J.F.K." (trans. Andrew Hurley) Literature is the attempt to interpret, in an ingenious way, the myths we no longer understand, at the moment we … Continue reading Don DeLillo, Libra

J. F. Martel, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice

Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action by J.F. Martel My rating: 4 of 5 stars [This book was in-demand at the library, so I had to take it back before writing a review; hence the lack of quotation below, a defect I have tried to correct with … Continue reading J. F. Martel, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Rappaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne My rating: 5 of 5 stars While I am not in the habit of reviewing individual short stories, this is almost novella-length anyway and is one of my all-time favorites. Someone should publish it in a lavish illustrated edition: I imagine mixed media, photos of floral tendrils and marble ruins … Continue reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Labyrinth vs. Network; or, Why Modernism Is Not Google

I find a lot to criticize and very little, almost nothing, to like in the Tom McCarthy essay that is making the rounds, but I will confine myself to one point: It is not just that people with degrees in English generally go to work for corporations (which of course they do); the point is that the … Continue reading Labyrinth vs. Network; or, Why Modernism Is Not Google

On Authenticity Considered as a Standard of Literary Value

Tim Parks, whose essays tend to bemuse me, as if he and I were not living in the same universe, nevertheless says much that I agree with and find refreshing in his latest, "In Search of Authenticity." There he defends authenticity—"Are these real concerns?"—as a standard of literary value. But at the risk of becoming a … Continue reading On Authenticity Considered as a Standard of Literary Value