Adam Kirsch

Thomas Pynchon Takes on September 11
September 11, 2013

For half a century, Thomas Pynchon has been America's preeminent novelist of paranoia, the writer who sees patterns and connections where others find only the random detritus of history.

Reza Aslan’s ‘Zealot’ Paints a Vivid, Accessible Portrait of Jesus
July 30, 2013

The paradox of writing about Jesus is that we can only form an idea of him from the scriptures, yet we can only evaluate the scriptures if we have an idea of what he must have been like.

Against Cynicism
A philosopher's brilliant reasons for living
July 19, 2013

Peter Sloterdijk, one of Germany’s best-known philosophers for 30 years, has just emerged in English. He makes philosophical problems come alive as well as any thinker at work today. 

What Would James Agee Say About the George Zimmerman Trial?
July 15, 2013

During the George Zimmerman trial, I happened to be reading James Agee's Depression classic, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Smoking and the Intellectual
'Susan Sontag: Reborn' turns intellectual evolution into drama
June 12, 2013

The first thing you see as the lights go down at Sontag: Reborn, the clever and affecting one-woman show now playing at New York Theatre Workshop, is a billow of cigarette smoke.

The Greatest English Poet You Haven't Heard of
The wisdom of a poet in nature and in war
April 28, 2013

Edward Thomas began to write poetry when he was 36. Three years later he was dead, killed in battle in the First World War. Yet in that short span of time he produced the hundred-odd poems that make him one of the most beloved poets of the twentieth century.

The Other Anne Frank
An important, new Auschwitz survivor's diary
April 10, 2013

A worthy addition to the library of eyewitness testimonies.

The New Essayists, or the Decline of a Form?
David Sedaris and a literary version of reality TV
February 18, 2013

“The essay, as a literary form, is pretty well extinct,” Philip Larkin wrote gloomily in 1984. Extinct was the right word, capturing the sense of an organism that could no longer survive in a changed environment.

No Solid Homeland—Mid-century Travels Through America
January 07, 2013

IN THE SPRING of 1958, the West German novelist Wolfgang Koeppen came to see America. His sightseeing tour took him from New York to Los Angeles and back, with stops along the way in New Orleans, Salt Like City, Chicago, Boston, and other cities and towns. And like so many European writers before him—from Tocqueville on down—he sought to turn his hastily gathered impressions into a book that would do nothing less than explain the essence of America, that envied, admired, feared, and hated civilization, to the Old World.

A Middlemarch for Middle America
October 31, 2012

The strength of Attenberg’s modest but effective novel is that she convinces us that the way the Middlesteins live is, indeed, the way we live now.

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