Marina Carr, By the Bog of Cats

By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr My rating: 3 of 5 stars Like many a literary work of the so-called postmodern period, Marina Carr's famous 1998 play By the Bog of Cats is a critical echo chamber of prior texts, whether near or far in space and time from its setting in the … Continue reading Marina Carr, By the Bog of Cats

J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World and Riders to the Sea

The Playboy of the Western World & Riders to the Sea by J.M. Synge My rating: 5 of 5 stars Yesterday for St. Patrick's Day I read these two classic early 20th-century dramas by the Irish playwright J. M. Synge. The texts I used were from the first edition of the Norton Critical Modern Irish … Continue reading J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World and Riders to the Sea

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

The Color Purple by Alice Walker My rating: 3 of 5 stars Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer-Prize-winning, Spielberg-filmed, Oprah-inspiring novel is a contentious contemporary classic. It remains widely read and loved but both the novel and its author have been scrutinized for every sin from New Age sentimentality to complicity with racism. In fewer than 300 … Continue reading Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Jack Kirby, Fourth World

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus by Jack Kirby My rating: 3 of 5 stars Jack Kirby (1917-1994) was and remains the most revered artist in the tradition of American superhero comics. Born to working-class Jewish immigrants in New York City, he was there as a hustling and prolific young artist at the superhero genre's foundation … Continue reading Jack Kirby, Fourth World

John Updike, Rabbit Is Rich

Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike My rating: 3 of 5 stars There are two kinds of male authors you love to hate. The first is well-known and easily explicable: Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Ralph Ellison, Cormac McCarthy. Their works are all masculine self-assertion and lighting out for the territory; they describe the … Continue reading John Updike, Rabbit Is Rich

Thomas Pynchon, V.

V. by Thomas Pynchon My rating: 4 of 5 stars Thomas Pynchon's astoundingly precocious 1963 debut is a double narrative. Its first plot, set largely in 1956, narrates the misadventures of ex-Navy sailor Benny Profane ("a schlemihl and human yo-yo") along with a company of bohemians called the Whole Sick Crew, as they drink and … Continue reading Thomas Pynchon, V.

Gertrude Stein, Three Lives

Three Lives by Gertrude Stein My rating: 3 of 5 stars One hallmark of modernism is a reversal in the priority of literature and painting. While theorists from antiquity through the 19th century debated in the abstract the relation between the two media, between word and image, literature pragmatically ruled over painting: the latter was … Continue reading Gertrude Stein, Three Lives

Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai My rating: 3 of 5 stars Back in the 1950s, Donald Keene thought he had to apologize to his Anglophone readers, in his "Translator's Introduction," for this classic 1947 Japanese novel's not being "Japanese" enough—for dealing in urban alienation, radical politics, and existential despair rather than cherry blossoms and … Continue reading Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison My rating: 4 of 5 stars The other day, someone trying to sell a gimmicky book Tweeted the boilerplate provocation that "no novels by white men" should be taught in American high schools for "the next 20 years." She then predictably pitted Ernest Hemingway against Toni Morrison to sharpen her point. … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Beloved

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