William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses

Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner My rating: 4 of 5 stars Go Down, Moses (1942), though not always grouped with Faulkner's indisputable masterpieces, is nevertheless one of his most significant and influential books. On strictly formalist or literary-historical grounds, it is a beautiful example of the short story collection as novel, an idea that … Continue reading William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses

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

Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters by Frances Stonor Saunders My rating: 4 of 5 stars Someone once said that beneath or behind all political and cultural warfare lies a struggle between secret societies. —Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972) This 1999 book by British journalist Saunders is the … Continue reading Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night

Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill My rating: 4 of 5 stars Long Day's Journey into Night, often considered one of the finest American dramas and as its author's masterpiece, was first published posthumously in 1955. The sources of its plot and characters in the Nobel-winning author's autobiography, his tortured family life marked … Continue reading Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night

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

Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway My rating: 3 of 5 stars Hemingway used to be overrated and is now if anything underrated. Once venerated for promoting a code of restrained masculine heroism forged in war, he is now execrated by the ideologists of "toxic masculinity." Neither variant of gender politics, however, … Continue reading Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

Hart Crane, The Bridge

The Bridge by Hart Crane My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Bridge (1930) is a long poem seven years in the making. It was written under several varieties of duress, alcoholism and despair chief among them, by a poet who would, within two years of his masterpiece's composition, take his own life at the … Continue reading Hart Crane, The Bridge

Anna Kavan, Ice

Ice by Anna Kavan My rating: 4 of 5 stars Jonathan Lethem begins his introduction to the new Penguin Classics edition of this 1967 novel, "Anna Kavan's Ice is a book like the moon is the moon. There is only one." Luckily, as he goes on he outgrows this meaningless blurb-babble (blurble?) and suggests Kavan's … Continue reading Anna Kavan, Ice

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

On the Road by Jack Kerouac My rating: 3 of 5 stars You will say, "You should have read this book when you were sixteen!" Reader, I wouldn't have liked it. My spell with the counterculture was tantalizing but brief, consisting mainly of Grant Morrison comics and a small short-lived occult shop on Pittsburgh's South … Continue reading Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

The Annotated Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 4 of 5 stars Lolita, if you don't know, is a novel cast in the form of a murderer's confession. The self-named Humbert Humbert, a European scion of a wealthy Riviera hotel owner, tells of his erotic obsession with certain young girls who seem to him daemonic … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita