Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett My rating: 4 of 5 stars Like Arthur Conan Doyle, who begins The Sign of Four with Sherlock Holmes in a drug trance, Dashiell Hammett can't get his detective novel started without an infusion of aestheticism. The Maltese Falcon, named as it is for an objet d'art, opens with two descriptions … Continue reading Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Providence

Providence Act 1 by Alan Moore My rating: 4 of 5 stars It is with hesitation that I write anything about Providence. This recent three-volume graphic novel—a prequel/sequel to the earlier works, The Courtyard and Neonomicon—represents Alan Moore's meticulously-researched and carefully-arranged synthesis of H. P. Lovecraft's mythos, whereas I am only the most casual reader … Continue reading Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Providence

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

César Aira, Ema, the Captive

Ema, the Captive by César Aira My rating: 4 of 5 stars Reading and rereading Wilde over the years, I note a fact that his panegyrists seem not even to have suspected: the elementary and demonstrable fact that Wilde is nearly always right. —Jorge Luis Borges, "On Oscar Wilde" (trans. Esther Allen) Art never expresses … Continue reading César Aira, Ema, the Captive

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler My rating: 3 of 5 stars "They pay brisk money for this crap?" Raymond Chandler asked of the science fiction genre. His rhetorical question followed his lively parody of the genre's trappings ("I checked out with K19 on Aldabaran III, and stepped out through the crummalite hatch on my … Continue reading Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle My rating: 3 of 5 stars Today, in honor of Halloween, the Paris Review is running an 1872 epistolary exchange between Bram Stoker and Walt Whitman. Sympathy between the authors of Leaves of Grass and Dracula is not as incongruous as it seems, given certain obvious sociopolitical realities—it makes … Continue reading Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

How the Novel Succeeded and How You Can Too

[I post this at Tumblr yesterday in response to an anonymous questioner using that platform's "ask" feature. I am posting it here because this is generally where I keep longer pieces I've written. The questioner asked me if I had any thoughts on how the novel rose to cultural prominence, despite the form's many critics, … Continue reading How the Novel Succeeded and How You Can Too