Juliana Spahr, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment

Du Bois's Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment by Juliana Spahr The first thing to be said about this book is that it is brave. Poet and critic Juliana Spahr does not make her startling argument in general, nor does she make it in unreadably dense jargon that could only be followed by academic insiders.… Continue reading Juliana Spahr, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment

William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare My rating: 4 of 5 stars This early Shakespearean comedy, dating from the 1590s, is paradoxically slight but weighty, thin but dense. That's no doubt partially owing to the lavish verbal resources it spends on such a simple plot. The story it tells is this: the King of Navarre… Continue reading William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

My Year in Books, 2018

Looking back, I see that I did a lot of rereading in 2018. Some of it was out of necessity (teaching), and some for pleasure. Some of it showed up in the reviews I post here, while some of it was devoted to books I've already written about in the last five years. I was… Continue reading My Year in Books, 2018

William Giraldi, American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring

American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring by William Giraldi My rating: 4 of 5 stars Though better known as the novelist who wrote the now-Netflixed Hold the Dark, William Giraldi has over the last decade been amassing a mighty corpus of literary criticism. Two tendencies set Giraldi's essays apart from those of his peers.… Continue reading William Giraldi, American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring

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

Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton My rating: 3 of 5 stars Strange the books one fails to read. The very fact that you are supposed to have read certain books makes you feel like you have already read them long before you read them, so you do not in fact ever read them.… Continue reading Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe My rating: 4 of 5 stars I am neither a Marlowe scholar in particular nor an early modernist in general, but as far as I can determine—with the aid of the contextual and critical materials collected in this Signet Classics edition edited by the late Sylvan Barnet—there are three main… Continue reading Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Samuel Johnson, Selected Essays

Selected Essays by Samuel Johnson My rating: 4 of 5 stars This Penguin Classics collection of essays by the great English critic and moralist Samuel Johnson is devoted largely to his periodical writing. In its introduction, the editor David Womersley notes that Johnson was known only (if at all) as an editor, lexicographer, and occasional… Continue reading Samuel Johnson, Selected Essays

Morten Høi Jensen, A Difficult Death: The Life and Work of Jens Peter Jacobsen

A Difficult Death: The Life and Work of Jens Peter Jacobsen by Morten Høi Jensen My rating: 4 of 5 stars I decided to pick up this appealing brief recent biography of Jacobsen after reading the 19th-century Danish author's masterpiece, Niels Lyhne (1880). While Jacobsen is not well-known today—I came to him through Nella Larsen, though… Continue reading Morten Høi Jensen, A Difficult Death: The Life and Work of Jens Peter Jacobsen

Gerald Murnane, The Plains

The Plains by Gerald Murnane My rating: 3 of 5 stars Gerald Murnane is in vogue. Every few years, it seems, a new writer or handful of writers is coronated in the book reviews, little magazines, and literary coteries of the English-speaking world as a monarch of world literature. So far this century, we've had W.… Continue reading Gerald Murnane, The Plains