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

Renata Adler, Speedboat

Speedboat by Renata Adler My rating: 4 of 5 stars Almost every member of American literature's last unambiguously major generation, the giants passing from the scene, was born in the 1930s: Carver (b. 1938), DeLillo (b. 1936), Didion (b. 1934), McCarthy (b. 1933), Morrison (b. 1931), Oates (b. 1938), Pynchon (b. 1937), Roth (b. 1933), … Continue reading Renata Adler, Speedboat

J. D. Bernal, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

The World, the Flesh and the Devil: An Enquiry Into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul by J.D. Bernal My rating: 3 of 5 stars When I saw Verso's 2017 reissue of this 1929 book in the library, I picked it up because I vaguely recalled that it had informed Grant … Continue reading J. D. Bernal, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon My rating: 4 of 5 stars Moby-Dick—an epic, mock-epic, and Great American Novel—is supposed to be a difficult book, and it is. Its gigantism burst the bounds of novelistic form, its essayistic divagations on cetology delay the development of the linear narrative for the book's entire midsection, its ambiguous symbolism … Continue reading Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald My rating: 5 of 5 stars Like Moby-Dick, this is another Great American Novel I had not read since my teens, so I thought it was due for an adult (I do not say "mature") revisitation. I approached it somewhat cautiously, thinking that a work so universally beloved … Continue reading F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby