Commonplace Book: Perversity and Paranoia, Sade and Steiner

Mitchell Abidor reflects on "Reading Sade in the Age of Epstein," with a useful history of the notorious author's welcome reception by the 20th-century intelligentsia: Then, in the aftermath of World War II, there was an extraordinary explosion of analyses of Sade. Pierre Klossowski, in his 1947 Sade, mon prochain, claimed that Sade was a … Continue reading Commonplace Book: Perversity and Paranoia, Sade and Steiner

Commonplace Book: Moral Philosophy, Religious Criticism, the Hatred of Literature, and the New Censorship

[Introducing a new series of posts: Commonplace Book, a weekly compilation of links to things I've read, with occasional commentary. Commonplace Book takes over from my now-dormant Tumblr, grandhotelabyss, and this first entry, to ease us all into the transition, is comprised of recent Tumblr posts.] Agnes Callard, "Who Wants to Play the Status Game?": … Continue reading Commonplace Book: Moral Philosophy, Religious Criticism, the Hatred of Literature, and the New Censorship

Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts by Clive James My rating: 3 of 5 stars Is it possible to ask, without sounding like a morbid troublemaker, why the death of Clive James last November was not greeted with the outpouring of vituperation that marked Harold Bloom's demise the month before? Granted, Bloom … Continue reading Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

My Year in Books, 2019

I took a brief hiatus from writing these reviews in August and September. During that break, I read Cormac McCarthy's Suttree, a 1979 novel sometimes cited as its author's masterpiece, and not only because it is his longest single work. Influenced by Ulysses, Herzog, and Henry Miller, Suttree is a plotless, ribald, melancholy city novel: … Continue reading My Year in Books, 2019

Dominique Eddé, Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel

Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel by Dominique Eddé My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book, originally published in France in 2017, has been out in America in its English translation (by Trista Selous and Ros Schwartz) for about three months. Yet there are no reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, and no reviews … Continue reading Dominique Eddé, Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison My rating: 4 of 5 stars The other day, someone trying to sell a gimmicky book Tweeted the boilerplate provocation that "no novels by white men" should be taught in American high schools for "the next 20 years." She then predictably pitted Ernest Hemingway against Toni Morrison to sharpen her point. … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Beloved

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James My rating: 4 of 5 stars How did this 1898 novella become modern and postmodern literary theory's most inscrutable touchstone? According to Henry James's Notebooks—and scholars have disputed this, but then they dispute everything, as we'll see—he got the kernel of the novella, a ghost story, from … Continue reading Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

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

Benjamin Moser, Sontag: Her Life and Work

Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser My rating: 3 of 5 stars Who could begin an essay like Susan Sontag? "Great writers are either husbands or lovers," starts her piece on Camus; of Simone Weil, she announces, "The culture-heroes of our liberal bourgeois civilization are anti-liberal and anti-bourgeois." Or take On Photography's first … Continue reading Benjamin Moser, Sontag: Her Life and Work