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

Wesley Yang, The Souls of Yellow Folk

The Souls of Yellow Folk by Wesley Yang My rating: 4 of 5 stars It was once a pop-socio-psychological commonplace of American foreign-policy commentary that terrorism on behalf of political Islam was motivated less by ideology and more by an intractable reality of gender: young men with no prospects in their societies will inevitably become… Continue reading Wesley Yang, The Souls of Yellow Folk

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

Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World

How to See the World: An Introduction to Images, from Self-Portraits to Selfies, Maps to Movies, and More by Nicholas Mirzoeff My rating: 3 of 5 stars Mirzoeff self-consciously updates the late John Berger's Ways of Seeing with a new piece of popular Marxist pedagogy on how to read politics and history into images and… Continue reading Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World

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

Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

Radical Chic & Mau Mauing The Flak Catchers by Tom Wolfe My rating: 3 of 5 stars It's a tiny bit arrogant of people to go around worrying about those less fortunate. —Whit Stillman, Metropolitan Stop me if you've heard this one before: it is a year or two into a conservative presidential administration—one that… Continue reading Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

J. D. Bernal, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

The World, the Flesh and the Devil: An Enquiry Into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul by J.D. Bernal My rating: 3 of 5 stars When I saw Verso's 2017 reissue of this 1929 book in the library, I picked it up because I vaguely recalled that it had informed Grant… Continue reading J. D. Bernal, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Gish Jen, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap by Gish Jen My rating: 3 of 5 stars One time, teaching a course on the graphic novel, I described the differences in artistic form and storytelling technique between manga and Western comics. A student raised her hand and offered the opinion that the… Continue reading Gish Jen, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle

Beyond the Pleasure Principle by Sigmund Freud My rating: 4 of 5 stars In this famously transitional work of 1920, Freud sets out to explain the prevalence of psychic activity that cannot obviously be attributed to the organism's inclination to reduce tension, the reduction of which produces pleasure. After all, as a clinician, he was… Continue reading Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle