David Copperfield

Charles Dickens Was Longwinded and Sometimes Unreadable—But Perfect
February 07, 2014

Two centuries after his birth, Charles Dickens's greatness is still up for debate. 

Why Do People Love 'Catcher in the Rye'?
January 28, 2010

To remember J. D. Salinger is, of course, to remember The Catcher in the Rye—though not, perhaps, how some critics didn't like it in 1951. Catholic World noted its "formidably excessive use of amateur swearing and coarse language," and there seemed to be some question as to whether an alienated, hard-drinking, chain-smoking flunkie like Holden Caulfield was going to prove a good influence on the young. Other critics did say it made them "chuckle and ... even laugh aloud," and many immediately compared Holden to Huck Finn.

Human, All Too Inhuman
July 24, 2000

White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Random House, 462 pp., $25.95) A genre is hardening. It is becoming easy to describe the contemporary idea of the "big, ambitious novel." Familial resemblances are asserting themselves, and a parent can be named: he is Dickens. Such recent novels as The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Mason & Dixon, Underworld, Infinite Jest, and now White Teeth overlap rather as the pages of an atlas expire into each other at their edges.