Christopher Isherwood, Prater Violet

Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood My rating: 3 of 5 stars Prater Violet, set in the 1930s and published in 1945, is Christopher Isherwood's novella of filmmaking. The short roman à clef is based on Isherwood's own experience working on the 1934 film Little Friend, directed by the emigrant Austrian Jewish director, Berthold Viertel. In … Continue reading Christopher Isherwood, Prater Violet

Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch My rating: 3 of 5 stars This strange 1961 novel—which succeeded The Bell, a far more conventionally realist novel, in Murdoch's oeuvre—seems to have a cult following, as indicated by recent recommendations by Susan Scarf Merrell in The New York Times and Gabe Habash in The Millions. As Habash … Continue reading Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head

Graham Greene, The Quiet American

The Quiet American by Graham Greene My rating: 4 of 5 stars In a recent article, Leigh Jenco asserts that a "de-colonizing" approach to diversifying university humanities curricula has its limits. The problem is not only that the implicit leftist, progressive underpinning of such a program conflicts with intellectual traditions that developed outside the Christian-Enlightenment paradigm (a … Continue reading Graham Greene, The Quiet American

Iris Murdoch, The Bell

The Bell by Iris Murdoch My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Bell is Iris Murdoch's fourth novel. I had never read the celebrated 20th-century British philosopher and novelist before and decided to start with this 1958 book because it is often said to be her first novel that is characteristically "Murdochian" and also her … Continue reading Iris Murdoch, The Bell

Anna Kavan, Ice

Ice by Anna Kavan My rating: 4 of 5 stars Jonathan Lethem begins his introduction to the new Penguin Classics edition of this 1967 novel, "Anna Kavan's Ice is a book like the moon is the moon. There is only one." Luckily, as he goes on he outgrows this meaningless blurb-babble (blurble?) and suggests Kavan's … Continue reading Anna Kavan, Ice

E. M. Forster, Maurice

Maurice by E.M. Forster My rating: 4 of 5 stars Maurice is E. M. Forster's fifth novel, written in 1913-14, following Howards End. Due to its content, however, Forster suppressed it until after his death; though it circulated privately in Forster's literary circles, it was not published until 1971. A "Terminal Note" reveals Forster's intention … Continue reading E. M. Forster, Maurice

D. M. Thomas, The White Hotel

The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas My rating: 5 of 5 stars But he would have us remember most of all To be enthusiastic over the night Not only for the sense of wonder It alone has to offer, but also Because it needs our love: for with sad eyes Its delectable creatures look up … Continue reading D. M. Thomas, The White Hotel

J. G. Ballard, High-Rise

High-Rise by J.G. Ballard My rating: 4 of 5 stars It's strange when you think about it that English writing should have contributed a certain kind of adjectival author to literature. Obviously you can make a meaningful adjective out of any famous writer's name, but the type of author I have in mind is more specific, … Continue reading J. G. Ballard, High-Rise

Jeanette Winterson, Art and Lies

Art and Lies by Jeanette Winterson My rating: 4 of 5 stars [Spoilers, disturbing ones at that, toward the end of this review.] My first encounter with Jeanette Winterson went badly. In college, I read Written on the Body and found it ludicrously overwritten, an imprecise prose poem wearing the guise of a novel, and … Continue reading Jeanette Winterson, Art and Lies

Tom McCarthy, Satin Island

Satin Island: A Novel by Tom McCarthy My rating: 3 of 5 stars Imagine DeLillo or Ballard without either of those writers' command of language. Imagine prose in the style of successful young humanities academics today, who write as if they have read every novel, played every video game, grasped every political theory, and can … Continue reading Tom McCarthy, Satin Island