The legendary castigation of big, bouncy novels that lack humanity.
Even Rebecca West Had Trouble Reading Henry James
April 15, 2014
But she still got a lot of pleasure out of it.
'What Maisie Knew': Is the Kid Alright?
May 03, 2013
This twenty-first century Henry James update is too cute by half.
The Rushdie Affair and the Struggle Against Islamism
December 07, 2012
The persecution of a prophetic novel and a pompous novelist.
Tarzan turns 100
October 05, 2012
What the Spanish-American War can tell us about the ideological core of the original Tarzan story:
The Identity Crisis of Zadie Smith
September 14, 2012
What's missing from Zadie Smith's new novel, "NW"? The recognition that fiction cannot be written according to a program.
June 07, 2012
Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew PoetryBy Alan Mintz (Stanford University Press, 520 pp., $65) I. ON DECEMBER 17, 2007, on the storied stage of the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York, the Hebrew language—its essence, its structure, its metaphysic— entered American discourse in so urgent a manner as to renew, if not to inflame, an ancient argument. The occasion was a public conversation between Marilynne Robinson and Robert Alter: a not uncommon match of novelist with literary scholar.
November 09, 2011
The Marriage Plot By Jeffrey Eugenides (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 406 pp., $28) Women write about love and marriage; men write about everything else. Like all truisms, this one is best served with a heaping spoonful of caveats, but they don’t alter its essential flavor. Just “look at all the books,” as Jeffrey Eugenides’s new novel exhorts the reader in its very first line.
The Respectable Mansion
October 12, 2011
The Stranger's Child By Alan Hollinghurst (Knopf, 435 pp., $27.95) As one looks back to the founding years of literary modernism in Europe, it is possible to discern a parting of ways that occurred on or about the eve of World War I. Along one twilit and at times tortuous path ventured Yeats and Henry James at the head of their few stragglers, while down the other broad thoroughfare strode the forces of the avant-garde, led by Pound, Joyce, and Eliot. Pound’s exhortation to “make it new” was a clarion call to stir the blood of young men already feeling the ground quaking under their boots.
Artists and Towers
August 24, 2011
In the 1970s I knew a young artist who painted cityscapes and talked about creating a series of New York City views in which the towers of the World Trade Center, then only a year or so old, would appear in every composition. My friend’s idea, which he discussed in a playful and speculative spirit, was to develop a modern urban counterpart to Hokusai’s One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. Sometimes the towers would be the focal point; sometimes they would be seen from a curious and unexpected vantage point; sometimes they would be no more than a speck in the distance.