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

John Updike, Rabbit Is Rich

Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike My rating: 3 of 5 stars There are two kinds of male authors you love to hate. The first is well-known and easily explicable: Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Ralph Ellison, Cormac McCarthy. Their works are all masculine self-assertion and lighting out for the territory; they describe the … Continue reading John Updike, Rabbit Is Rich

Gertrude Stein, Three Lives

Three Lives by Gertrude Stein My rating: 3 of 5 stars One hallmark of modernism is a reversal in the priority of literature and painting. While theorists from antiquity through the 19th century debated in the abstract the relation between the two media, between word and image, literature pragmatically ruled over painting: the latter was … Continue reading Gertrude Stein, Three Lives

Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai My rating: 3 of 5 stars Back in the 1950s, Donald Keene thought he had to apologize to his Anglophone readers, in his "Translator's Introduction," for this classic 1947 Japanese novel's not being "Japanese" enough—for dealing in urban alienation, radical politics, and existential despair rather than cherry blossoms and … Continue reading Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human

Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson My rating: 4 of 5 stars I conclude this October's rereading of fin de siècle horror fiction—see also my entries on Dracula and The Turn of the Screw—with Robert Louis Stevenson's iconic 1886 novella, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The … Continue reading Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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

Published: “White Girl” (Redux)

I have to interrupt this eventful brief hiatus again to announce that my short story "White Girl," first published in summer 2016 in the now-defunct Amaranth Review, appears once more, free to read in its entirety, at Expat Press's website. Please click here to read it. If you have read it and would like, for … Continue reading Published: “White Girl” (Redux)

Herman Melville, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade

The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville My rating: 4 of 5 stars This 1857 novel, Melville's last, aside from the unfinished and posthumously published Billy Budd, takes place in a single setting—a Mississippi steamboat called the Fidèle—over the course of one day, April 1, All Fools' Day. It begins most mysteriously— At sunrise on a first of … Continue reading Herman Melville, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison My rating: 5 of 5 stars In her memorial remembrance of her late friend Toni Morrison, Fran Lebowitz observed that "Toni would always take into account the problems that the person you were angry at had." She was speaking of how Morrison behaved as a friend, but a great … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon