Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts by Clive James My rating: 3 of 5 stars Is it possible to ask, without sounding like a morbid troublemaker, why the death of Clive James last November was not greeted with the outpouring of vituperation that marked Harold Bloom's demise the month before? Granted, Bloom … Continue reading Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Dominique Eddé, Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel

Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel by Dominique Eddé My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book, originally published in France in 2017, has been out in America in its English translation (by Trista Selous and Ros Schwartz) for about three months. Yet there are no reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, and no reviews … Continue reading Dominique Eddé, Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel

Benjamin Moser, Sontag: Her Life and Work

Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser My rating: 3 of 5 stars Who could begin an essay like Susan Sontag? "Great writers are either husbands or lovers," starts her piece on Camus; of Simone Weil, she announces, "The culture-heroes of our liberal bourgeois civilization are anti-liberal and anti-bourgeois." Or take On Photography's first … Continue reading Benjamin Moser, Sontag: Her Life and Work

I. F. Stone, The Trial of Socrates

The Trial of Socrates by I.F. Stone My rating: 4 of 5 stars If the independent left-wing journalist I. F. Stone had lived to write this 1988 bestseller in 2019 instead, he might have expressed its thesis this way: Socrates was an alt-right troll redpilling young men with corrosive irony and anti-democratic sentiment; therefore, democratic … Continue reading I. F. Stone, The Trial of Socrates

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