Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy My rating: 4 of 5 stars All the Pretty Horses is apparently to Cormac McCarthy's corpus what The Crying of Lot 49 is to Thomas Pynchon's or The Ghost Writer to Philip Roth's: it is the appealing vestibule to an oeuvre of appalling heights and depths, a prolegomenon to any… Continue reading Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Don DeLillo, White Noise

White Noise: Text and Criticism by Don DeLillo My rating: 5 of 5 stars I am interested in the question of whether or not this book holds up. It was long judged exemplary of a cultural epoch: the postmodern novel par excellence, or at least an excellent postmodern novel that undergraduates could reasonably be expected… Continue reading Don DeLillo, White Noise

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon My rating: 5 of 5 stars A summary of this classic 1965 short novel's unsummarizable plot: California housewife Oedipa Maas becomes executor ("or she supposed executrix") of the will of her late lover, real-estate magnate Pierce Inverarity. She travels from her domestic normality in Kinneret-among-Pines to a… Continue reading Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

Bernard Malamud, The Assistant

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud My rating: 5 of 5 stars The Assistant (1957) is Bernard Malamud's second novel. Frank Alpine, its eponymous anti-hero, becomes a clerk in the failing Brooklyn grocery store of Morris Bober after Bober is robbed and assaulted. The Italian-American orphan and drifter Alpine slowly intricates himself into the ways and… Continue reading Bernard Malamud, The Assistant

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders My rating: 4 of 5 stars In one of the few negative reviews of George Saunders's well-received and Man Booker-winning first novel, Caleb Crain complains that it is not a novel at all ("this is anti-novelistic") and that it exhibits "sentimental sadism." True and true, but, my own… Continue reading George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

Letters from an American Farmer by J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur My rating: 5 of 5 stars It might sound odd to call such a ubiquitous text underrated, but I think Letters from an American Farmer is just that. While most people who have taken a course in American literature or history have probably… Continue reading J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville My rating: 5 of 5 stars [Note: all quotations from essays, letters, and reviews below come from documents included in this Norton Critical Edition.] In his 1850 manifesto-essay in praise of Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Hawthorne and His Mosses," Herman Melville scorns the Anglophile polish and traditionalism of Washington Irving, then considered the… Continue reading Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Hannah Webster Foster, The Coquette

The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster My rating: 2 of 5 stars Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette is a 1797 American epistolary seduction novel and a roman à clef about the death of Elizabeth Whitman (fictionally re-christened Eliza Wharton), a woman of the Connecticut gentry who is impregnated by a married man and who then… Continue reading Hannah Webster Foster, The Coquette