Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James My rating: 4 of 5 stars How did this 1898 novella become modern and postmodern literary theory's most inscrutable touchstone? According to Henry James's Notebooks—and scholars have disputed this, but then they dispute everything, as we'll see—he got the kernel of the novella, a ghost story, from … Continue reading Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

Bram Stoker, Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker My rating: 4 of 5 stars Though "undiscovered" and "forgotten" works are thrust at us from every corner, I find that the most startling books are often the most famous, the most classic. Supposedly so well known they no longer merit study—we might as well throw them in the trash—they are … Continue reading Bram Stoker, Dracula

Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch My rating: 3 of 5 stars This strange 1961 novel—which succeeded The Bell, a far more conventionally realist novel, in Murdoch's oeuvre—seems to have a cult following, as indicated by recent recommendations by Susan Scarf Merrell in The New York Times and Gabe Habash in The Millions. As Habash … Continue reading Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head

Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton My rating: 3 of 5 stars Strange the books one fails to read. The very fact that you are supposed to have read certain books makes you feel like you have already read them long before you read them, so you do not in fact ever read them. … Continue reading Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life

Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life by Theodor W. Adorno My rating: 5 of 5 stars It helps to know that this 1951 book, an unclassifiable philosophical masterpiece consisting of 153 divisions ranging in length from the aphorism to the brief essay, was written largely in the light of Southern California. Adorno was a … Continue reading Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Hamlet by William Shakespeare My rating: 5 of 5 stars Why is this bizarre, disorderly, long, and poorly transmitted tragedy from the turn of the seventeenth century the central work of the western literary tradition, its hero the keystone in the arch of modern literature? Because the distance he created between himself and the world … Continue reading William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Bloomsday Notes: Jung on Joyce

The emergence of a literature which is predominantly concerned with the exploration of both a social reality and individual consciousness is a relatively recent phenomenon. Its first clear manifestations date from about the third quarter of the seventeenth century when the collective projection represented by the Christian "worldview" gradually began to break apart. Inevitably, this … Continue reading Bloomsday Notes: Jung on Joyce

C. G. Jung, Answer to Job

Answer to Job by C.G. Jung My rating: 3 of 5 stars The back cover advertises Answer to Job as "one of Jung's most controversial works." He wrote it toward the end of his life, in the early 1950s, and according to the introduction to the 2010 edition by Sonu Shamdasani, he composed it in … Continue reading C. G. Jung, Answer to Job

D. M. Thomas, The White Hotel

The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas My rating: 5 of 5 stars But he would have us remember most of all To be enthusiastic over the night Not only for the sense of wonder It alone has to offer, but also Because it needs our love: for with sad eyes Its delectable creatures look up … Continue reading D. M. Thomas, The White Hotel

Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski My rating: 3 of 5 stars "The good parts are good; he just keeps not having the good parts." Such was the verdict rendered upon House of Leaves and its author by someone I know who left the novel unfinished—a "confirmed ghost story and horror film addict" (quoth Jack … Continue reading Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves