Bram Stoker, Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker My rating: 4 of 5 stars Though "undiscovered" and "forgotten" works are thrust at us from every corner, I find that the most startling books are often the most famous, the most classic. Supposedly so well known they no longer merit study—we might as well throw them in the trash—they are … Continue reading Bram Stoker, Dracula

Richard Ellmann, James Joyce

James Joyce by Richard Ellmann My rating: 4 of 5 stars Biography must be the most traditional, even rigid, of the prose genres, exceeding murder mysteries or romance novels. It marches from birth to death (or from family history to cultural legacy) at the stately pace of the old three-volume Victorian novel and with the … Continue reading Richard Ellmann, James Joyce

Anna Burns, Milkman

Milkman by Anna Burns My rating: 5 of 5 stars "I did not like twentieth century books because I did not like the twentieth century," says the narrator of Anna Burns's Milkman, the 2018 winner of the Man Booker prize. In one of the novel's many knowing ironies, the joke is that she inhabits what … Continue reading Anna Burns, Milkman

Against Celebration: Bloomsday vs. Dallowayday

Two years ago, Elaine Showalter suggested that we balance Bloomsday (June 16, the day whereon Joyce's Ulysses is set) with Dallowayday: Like Joyce’s Ulysses, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is set in a single city on a single day: London on 13 June 1923. But while Bloomsday on 16 June is the occasion of riotous celebrations … Continue reading Against Celebration: Bloomsday vs. Dallowayday

Bloomsday Notes: Jung on Joyce

The emergence of a literature which is predominantly concerned with the exploration of both a social reality and individual consciousness is a relatively recent phenomenon. Its first clear manifestations date from about the third quarter of the seventeenth century when the collective projection represented by the Christian "worldview" gradually began to break apart. Inevitably, this … Continue reading Bloomsday Notes: Jung on Joyce

William Butler Yeats, The Tower

The Tower by W.B. Yeats My rating: 5 of 5 stars In my review of Seamus Heaney's Death of a Naturalist, I casually referred to "Yeatsian idealism," to contrast the earlier poet's elite modernism with Heaney's later and more modest poetic of the turf and bog. Facility with such phrases as "Yeatsian idealism" is the … Continue reading William Butler Yeats, The Tower

Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist

Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney My rating: 5 of 5 stars Thinking, for what should be obvious reasons, about previous Anglophone poets who won the Nobel Prize, I decided to read this, Seamus Heaney's first collection, published in 1966. All the virtues we've heard about and know from the anthology pieces—the dense sonic … Continue reading Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist

Bloomsday Thoughts: Blasphemies, Monuments, Traditions

The nightingales are singing near The Convent of the Sacred Heart... —T. S. Eliot, "Sweeney among the Nightingales" Joyce was an apostate, renegade, heathen, exile, dissident, blasphemer—and so perhaps the most faithful way to celebrate Bloomsday would be to blaspheme Joyce. In his bracing 1988 essay, “Against Ulysses,” Leo Bersani does just that. Despite its venerably … Continue reading Bloomsday Thoughts: Blasphemies, Monuments, Traditions

Samuel Beckett, Happy Days

Happy Days by Samuel Beckett My rating: 3 of 5 stars Fascinating but not my favorite. Evidently Beckett regarded Winnie as a kind of earth mother spirit, indomitable, and I do find some patronizing piety or maybe just pity here, a refusal of the corrosive irony Beckett's male heroes have to endure in the midst … Continue reading Samuel Beckett, Happy Days