Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun

The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Marble Faun (1860) is Hawthorne's last completed and longest romance—his term for the type of non-realist, symbolic, and psychological fiction he preferred to write. Composed during and after his and his family's travels in Europe following his political patronage appointment as American consul … Continue reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun

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

Henry James, Hawthorne

Hawthorne by Henry James My rating: 5 of 5 stars This short 1879 book is Henry James's critical biography of the man who would at the time have been considered his most distinguished precursor in American fiction, Nathaniel Hawthorne. James was early in his career and was moreover writing Hawthorne as the only entry on … Continue reading Henry James, Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne My rating: 5 of 5 stars Preface What is The Scarlet Letter about? Generations of confused American students want to know! This short 1850 historical novel, written by a middle-aged and modestly successful short story writer and lately deposed customs inspector, tells a tale of crime and punishment in … Continue reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville My rating: 5 of 5 stars [Note: all quotations from essays, letters, and reviews below come from documents included in this Norton Critical Edition.] In his 1850 manifesto-essay in praise of Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Hawthorne and His Mosses," Herman Melville scorns the Anglophile polish and traditionalism of Washington Irving, then considered the … Continue reading Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor My rating: 4 of 5 stars It's considered an absolute necessity these days for writers to have compassion. Compassion is a word that sounds good in anybody's mouth and which no book jacket can do without. It is a quality which no one can put his finger on in any … Continue reading Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

Sublimity Listed: Bloom’s 12 American Writers

Harold Bloom has a new book coming out—rather like my grandmother, he's been falsely prophesying his imminent demise for almost my entire lifetime. Since the end will come for us all eventually, I'm always glad to see old Bloom fighting the good fight.* Now he lists his 12 authors who best exemplify "the American Sublime" (see the … Continue reading Sublimity Listed: Bloom’s 12 American Writers

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Rappaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne My rating: 5 of 5 stars While I am not in the habit of reviewing individual short stories, this is almost novella-length anyway and is one of my all-time favorites. Someone should publish it in a lavish illustrated edition: I imagine mixed media, photos of floral tendrils and marble ruins … Continue reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills

Life in the Iron Mills and Other Stories by Rebecca Harding Davis My rating: 5 of 5 stars This debut novella by Rebecca Harding Davis, first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1861, is now a classic after its rescue from oblivion by Tillie Olsen and the Feminist Press in the 1970s. An early example … Continue reading Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills