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

Marianne Moore, Observations

Observations: Poems by Marianne Moore My rating: 4 of 5 stars I have never known how to read Marianne Moore, either in the most elementary sense (as in, what book should I even be reading?) or the more advanced sense (as in, what on earth do these poems mean?). Encountering Moore's poems in anthologies, I … Continue reading Marianne Moore, Observations

Henry James, Hawthorne

Hawthorne by Henry James My rating: 5 of 5 stars This short 1879 book is Henry James's critical biography of the man who would at the time have been considered his most distinguished precursor in American fiction, Nathaniel Hawthorne. James was early in his career and was moreover writing Hawthorne as the only entry on … Continue reading Henry James, Hawthorne

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin My rating: 3 of 5 stars James Baldwin is today so universally beloved, so piously received, that it almost comes as a relief to find this, his generally acclaimed second novel, so uncongenial to contemporary sensibilities as to be positively disturbing. On the back cover, Michael Ondaatje proclaims Baldwin a … Continue reading James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions

Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac My rating: 4 of 5 stars Lost Illusions, like its more hopeful but also more ironic English counterpart Great Expectations, could be the title affixed to the entire genre of the realist novel going back to Don Quixote: the realist novel is a narrative whose heroes and heroines learn … Continue reading Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions

Willa Cather, The Professor’s House

The Professor's House by Willa Cather My rating: 4 of 5 stars Jeff Nunokawa, reading Henry James's newly collected autobiographies, concludes of the Master's famously difficult later style ("[e]veryone knows that there are sentences in late James that no one has ever understood") as follows: Behind all this there may be a child being beaten—beaten … Continue reading Willa Cather, The Professor’s House

Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle and Other Stories

The Beast in the Jungle and Other Stories by Henry James My rating: 5 of 5 stars I took up this volume as Halloween approached and I realized I had never read James’s second most famous ghost story, “The Jolly Corner.” (I love James, but his most famous ghost story, the novella The Turn of … Continue reading Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle and Other Stories

Sublimity Listed: Bloom’s 12 American Writers

Harold Bloom has a new book coming out—rather like my grandmother, he's been falsely prophesying his imminent demise for almost my entire lifetime. Since the end will come for us all eventually, I'm always glad to see old Bloom fighting the good fight.* Now he lists his 12 authors who best exemplify "the American Sublime" (see the … Continue reading Sublimity Listed: Bloom’s 12 American Writers