William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses

Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner My rating: 4 of 5 stars Go Down, Moses (1942), though not always grouped with Faulkner's indisputable masterpieces, is nevertheless one of his most significant and influential books. On strictly formalist or literary-historical grounds, it is a beautiful example of the short story collection as novel, an idea that … Continue reading William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses

Iris Murdoch, The Bell

The Bell by Iris Murdoch My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Bell is Iris Murdoch's fourth novel. I had never read the celebrated 20th-century British philosopher and novelist before and decided to start with this 1958 book because it is often said to be her first novel that is characteristically "Murdochian" and also her … Continue reading Iris Murdoch, The Bell

Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński My rating: 3 of 5 stars This 1965 novel is a text so overwhelmed by its various contexts that it is almost impossible to read. It was still ubiquitous as a semi-illicit paperback when I was a child in the late 1980s and early 1990s, reputed to be an … Continue reading Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird

Alan Moore, Miracleman

Miracleman, Book Three: Olympus by Alan Moore My rating: 4 of 5 stars In the 1980s, Alan Moore, the most celebrated writer in the history of mainstream Anglophone comics, made his name by telling the same story four times. In Miracleman, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, and Watchmen, a commanding male figure, superior of intellect … Continue reading Alan Moore, Miracleman

Gerald Murnane, The Plains

The Plains by Gerald Murnane My rating: 3 of 5 stars Gerald Murnane is in vogue. Every few years, it seems, a new writer or handful of writers is coronated in the book reviews, little magazines, and literary coteries of the English-speaking world as a monarch of world literature. So far this century, we've had W. … Continue reading Gerald Murnane, The Plains

Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal My rating: 3 of 5 stars A little over a decade and a half ago, Gore Vidal was one of the most urgent voices on the American left: challenging empire in the era of neoconservatism, challenging religion at the height of evangelical power, he seemed to speak … Continue reading Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar

Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy My rating: 3 of 5 stars The Crossing (1994) is the follow-up to All the Pretty Horses (1992) and the second part of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, three novels focused on young American men coming of age in the early-to-mid-20th century on the border with Mexico. Unlike its popular precursor, … Continue reading Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

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

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood My rating: 3 of 5 stars Some books are so famous, so ubiquitous in the culture, that you feel you have read them well before you ever read them. You feel, in fact, that you don't need to read them. This is what kept me from reading The Handmaid's … Continue reading Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo

Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed My rating: 4 of 5 stars Thomas Pynchon's freewheeling narrator of Gravity's Rainbow (1973) tells us, "Well, and keep in mind where those Masonic Mysteries came from in the first place. (Check out Ishmael Reed. He knows more about it than you will ever find here.)" Similarly, the underground cult classic … Continue reading Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo