Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin My rating: 4 of 5 stars Let's get the literary-historical info and honorifics out of the way first: Berlin Alexanderplatz is one of the monuments of the modernist novel, often compared to Joyce's Ulysses ("quite wrongly and needlessly," says the present translator, about which more later) for its linguistic and… Continue reading Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz

Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life

Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life by Theodor W. Adorno My rating: 5 of 5 stars It helps to know that this 1951 book, an unclassifiable philosophical masterpiece consisting of 153 divisions ranging in length from the aphorism to the brief essay, was written largely in the light of Southern California. Adorno was a… Continue reading Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life

Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński My rating: 3 of 5 stars This 1965 novel is a text so overwhelmed by its various contexts that it is almost impossible to read. It was still ubiquitous as a semi-illicit paperback when I was a child in the late 1980s and early 1990s, reputed to be an… Continue reading Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird

Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus

Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories by Philip Roth My rating: 5 of 5 stars She walked away and around the oak tree. When she appeared again she'd stepped out of her shoes and held one hand on the tree, as though it were a Maypole she were circling. —Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus (1959) Just… Continue reading Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus

Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow My rating: 4 of 5 stars Most famous or classic books are more complicated, more contradictory, and more strange than their capsule-summaries or encyclopedia entries would suggest, and Saul Bellow's third and career-making novel of 1953, The Adventures of Augie March, does not disappoint in this. For… Continue reading Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

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

Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth My rating: 5 of 5 stars The Ghost Writer is the good Roth, the safe Roth, wholesome enough to give to children and kittens and ducklings, hence, perhaps, its appearance on my syllabus this semester. (The guy who taught the class before me went straight to Portnoy's Complaint, but… Continue reading Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer

David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet My rating: 4 of 5 stars Look. Look. Are you LISTENing to me? I'm not some Brooklyn beggar, okay? I'm not some fucking Oberlin grad with a hunnerd fucking grand in fucking debt and rent a coupla grand a month. I'm not some fucking slave in the clickbait content… Continue reading David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon My rating: 2 of 5 stars The original jacket copy compared The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay to American Pastoral and Underworld, but that is very misleading. A crowd-pleasing saga to make us laugh and cry and to make us reflect on history just… Continue reading Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg My rating: 2 of 5 stars I read this—and I don't think I've ever read this volume as a volume before, though I've read most of its contents, some multiple times over the years—to see if my longstanding judgment upon it holds up to maturer reconsideration. Stereotypically, one… Continue reading Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems