Literature

  • <em>What the Editors Are Reading</em>
    July 2020

    What the Editors Are Reading

    Anthony Esolen reviews Pär Lagerkvist's Barabbas and Taki Theodoracopulos reviews Cornwell's Waterloo.
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  • The Philosopher's Ball Game
    July 2020

    The Philosopher's Ball Game

    I artificially altered my body to become a better baseball player. Humans are all “cyborgs” of a sort, Noë argues—a combination of biology and technology, enhanced by the foods we eat, the medicines we take, and the training regimens we adopt.
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  • Madison Avenue's Soviet Mole
    July 2020

    Madison Avenue's Soviet Mole

    In his latest book, Klehr attempts to wrap up a long preoccupation with the enigmatic spy David Karr, an American who collaborated with the Soviet Union for a number of years until his death in 1979.
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  • What Made the Founders Happy
    July 2020

    What Made the Founders Happy

    Carli Conklin's book The Pursuit of Happiness in the Founding Era seeks to harmonize several strains of thought on what the Founders meant in the Declaration when they spoke of an inalienable right to pursue happiness.
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  • <em>Books in Brief</em>
    July 2020

    Books in Brief

    Mark G. Brennan reviews How Dead Languages Work by Coulter H. George.
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  • The Mind Behind Big Brother
    June 2020

    The Mind Behind Big Brother

    Few works in literature are as terrifying as 1984, that look into the future written by George Orwell and published in 1949. British scholar Dorian Lynskey unravels the novel’s themes, inspirations, and intentions in his latest book.
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  • Plague Literature: The Threshing Floor
    June 2020

    Plague Literature: The Threshing Floor

    Since plague is one of those natural disasters whose origin cannot be assigned to human agency, it can pose seemingly insoluble moral problems…Does God in fact directly will suffering, or does he merely permit it?
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  • Remembering the Southern Agrarians

    Remembering the Southern Agrarians

    In 1920 a group of writers gathered in Nashville for bi-weekly sessions of reading and dissecting each other’s prose and poetry. The group, who defended the traditional Southern way of life, became known as the Southern Agrarians.
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  • <em>What the Editors Are Reading</em>
    June 2020

    What the Editors Are Reading

    Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella of split personality, the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987) by Paul Kennedy
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  • <em>Books in Brief</em>
    June 2020

    Books in Brief

    The Art of Statistics, by David Spiegelhalter (Basic Books; 448 pp., $32.00). Uncanny Valley: A Memoir, by Anna Wiener (MCD; 288 pp., $27.00).
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  • A Skeptic on the Road of Saints
    June 2020

    A Skeptic on the Road of Saints

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Timothy Egan’s latest book chronicles his pilgrimage along the Via Francigena.
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  • Empire States of Mind
    June 2020

    Empire States of Mind

    Although this relatively short book is closer to an extended, episodic essay than to the comprehensive history of the British Empire implied by the title, it is an excellent example of the author’s style. Jeremy Black takes a broad view…
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  • Books in Brief
    April/May 2020

    Books in Brief

    John DeJak reviews Václav Benda's The Long Night of the Watchman
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  • What the Editors Are Reading
    April/May 2020

    What the Editors Are Reading

    Reviews of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Antifragile and Diego Gambetta's The Sicilian Mafia
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  • Hitler vs. the Anglo-Americans
    April/May 2020

    Hitler vs. the Anglo-Americans

    On April 20, Adolf Hitler turns 131. Ten days later comes the 75th anniversary of his earthly demise in the ruins of Berlin, but he is still our contemporary par excellence. He continues to haunt and fascinate. Hitler’s countenance, his very...
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  • Fatal Amendments
    April/May 2020

    Fatal Amendments

    Enthusiastic defenders of the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution are fundamentalist cultists—and women and minorities are their victims. At least, that is the thesis of University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks’ new book,...
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  • Traditionalism Redux
    April/May 2020

    Traditionalism Redux

    War for Eternity strives to show that many modern national conservative and populist movements are paradoxically informed by the arcane intellectual current known as traditionalism.
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  • Remembering William F. Buckley, Jr.
    April/May 2020

    Remembering William F. Buckley, Jr.

    Two years after the death of the man whom one of his biographers, John Judis, dubbed the patron saint of modern conservatism, Encounter Books brought out a splendidly packaged omnibus volume of his columns and essays, entitled Athwart History:...
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  • The American Muse
    March 2020

    The American Muse

    For almost as long as there have been literary works, there have been literary canons, largely established by bookish pedants who do, indeed, “quarrel unceasingly.” The quarreling began early in the third century B.C. and continues today. The...
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  • Dictatorship of the Deranged
    March 2020

    Dictatorship of the Deranged

    A long time ago, I happened upon a cartoon in some publication or other. A single frame—in the vein of Gary Larson—depicted thousands of sheep rushing headlong off a cliff. In the middle of this great multitude, one particular sheep moved in the...
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  • Singin' the Publishing Blues
    March 2020

    Singin' the Publishing Blues

    I like a traveling circus. The American Historical Association’s annual conference periodically sets up its tent at the New York Hilton. Since I live nearby, I subject myself to its clown car of characters every half decade. But this year, I saw...
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  • <em>What the Editors Are Reading</em>
    March 2020

    What the Editors Are Reading

    Perhaps the greatest American autobiography in both the quality of its writing and the import of its content is Whittaker Chambers’ Witness (1952). Sadly, it’s also one of the most neglected by the country’s leftist-dominated intelligentsia.
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  • <em>Books in Brief</em>
    February 2020

    Books in Brief

    End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival Is Undermining Its Rise, by Carl Minzner
    and
    Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities, by Vaclav Smil
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  • Apologizing for the Bother
    February 2020

    Apologizing for the Bother

    “It’s a small, white, scored oval tablet.” A little pill stands between Florent-Claude Labrouste and his planned defenestration. It offers only a temporary reprieve from the meaninglessness of life. As the narrator of Michel Houellebecq’s latest...
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  • Nationalism for the Lukewarm
    February 2020

    Nationalism for the Lukewarm

    It seems that Rich Lowry has taken time off from castigating Donald Trump and calling for the prompt removal of Confederate memorial monuments to compose an entire book making “the case for nationalism.” A media launch was provided by Fox News’s...
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  • <em>What the Editors Are Reading</em>
    February 2020

    What the Editors Are Reading

    Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited (1945) while on a six-month leave from the British Army during World War II. It proved a hit with the public, but the critics who had praised Waugh’s earlier satirical novels were less impressed, objecting...
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  • Remembering Robert Nisbet
    January 2020

    Remembering Robert Nisbet

    It is hard to imagine anyone today having a career like Robert Nisbet’s: professor at Berkeley, Arizona, and Columbia; dean and vice-chancellor at the University of California, Riverside; author of widely used sociology textbooks; and co-founder,...
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  • A Louisiana Lesson
    January 2020

    A Louisiana Lesson

    By
    If an admiring reviewer’s main purpose is to inspire his reader to run out and buy the book he praises, Professor Randall Ivey has done that for me with his review of Louisiana Poets: A Literary Guide (“Chansons by the Bayou,” December 2019)....
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  • <em>What the Editors Are Reading</em>
    January 2020

    What the Editors Are Reading

    The Diary of a Country Priest (1936) by Georges Bernanos is as timely now as ever. It can be appreciated for its powerful Christian vision, its pertinence to today’s social illnesses, and its literary excellence, as shown in narrative technique,...
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  • An Austrian Frame of Mind
    January 2020

    An Austrian Frame of Mind

    Professor Janek Wasserman, to his credit, is not a polemicist. His new book is indeed a leftist critique of the broad school of economic thought now colloquially referred to as “Austrian,” but it is not only that. It is also a lively and...
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  • The Unbearable Burden of Being
    January 2020

    The Unbearable Burden of Being

    What has brought upon us the madness of the “transgender,” with all its sad denial of the beauty and particularity of male and female? To see the cause, we must diagnose the malady. It is boredom: an irritable impatience with the things that...
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  • Hope in Little Platoons
    October 2019

    Hope in Little Platoons

    For 26 years, I taught hundreds of home-educated students, including my own children. My checkered teaching career also includes a semester in a university, two years at a prison, and two years in a public high school. During my last 15 years of...
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  • Unconscious Beauty
    June 2019

    Unconscious Beauty

    This handsome hardbound volume, an authoritative study in art history that can pass as a coffee-table book, is billed by its publisher as “the first-ever history of the representation of dreams in Western painting.”
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  • Bodio’s Country
    May 2019

    Bodio’s Country

    Stephen Bodio is a memoirist, journalist, critic, sportswriter, naturalist, outdoorsman, hunter, falconer, bird breeder, dog breeder, and now a novelist.
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  • <em>Books In Brief</em>
    May 2019

    Books In Brief

    The French dislike what they call “Anglo-American economics” even more than they dislike English and American cookery; also, more recently, progressive Anglo-American views regarding the supposed identicality between the sexes.
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  • <em>What the Editors Are Reading</em>
    May 2019

    What the Editors Are Reading

    Always keen to read travel books about Mexico, I picked up an elderly copy (printed by A. Appleton & Company in 1921) of Viva Mexico! by Charles Macomb Flandrau that I came across in a local bookshop.
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  • Poet Against Empire
    April 2019

    Poet Against Empire

    When I mention that I am reading Robinson Jeffers, even cultivated and well-read people look bemused; the name seems obscure. By way of explanation, I borrow the closing words of the classic gangster film The Roaring Twenties: “He used to be a...
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  • Homage to Edward Abbey
    March 2019

    Homage to Edward Abbey

    The March issue of Chronicles coincides with the 30th anniversary of the passing of novelist, essayist, poet, and conservationist Edward Abbey.
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  • Glimpses Delightful and Rare
    February 2019

    Glimpses Delightful and Rare

    One of the root problems facing our beleaguered world is that many of our contemporaries are belaboring the past as a burden, believing that the legacy and traditions of Western Civilization are a millstone around modernity’s neck.
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  • Too Dangerous to Read
    December 2018

    Too Dangerous to Read

    I offer a moral dilemma. Are there books or fictional works so dangerous that they should not be taught in school or college, and that should as far as possible be kept from a general audience?
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  • Out of Troy
    December 2018

    Out of Troy

    Author of several novels and a memorable autobiographical work entitled Our Father’s Fields (1998), as well as a leading light of the Abbeville Institute, James Kibler has produced in the present work an indispensable study of the classical...
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  • “Yet Britain Set the World Ablaze . . . ”
    October 2018

    “Yet Britain Set the World Ablaze . . . ”

    The untidy title—the “century” is really a century-and-a-bit—signals the complexity of that far-off, still close country so sentimentalized by the right and impugned by the left.
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  • What Good Poetry Can Be
    October 2018

    What Good Poetry Can Be

    A long and distinguished literary career ended on June 23, 2018, with the death of New England poet Donald Hall. A versatile and prolific author, he served in 2006-07 as poet laureate of the United States.
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  • Tom Wolfe, R.I.P.
    July 2018

    Tom Wolfe, R.I.P.

    When Tom Wolfe’s debut novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, was published in November 1987, the book was greeted with effusive praise and became a best-seller, although some literati seemed offended by Wolfe’s highly descriptive prose, the...
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  • Anglo Magic
    July 2018

    Anglo Magic

    Field of Blood is one of the best new novels I have read in many a year, a superbly written book by a Russian scholar and analyst who is also a careful artist, a stylist, and a poet in prose and in form who has accomplished what few essayists and...
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  • Thank You, Auden!
    May 2018

    Thank You, Auden!

    With the publication of volumes V and VI, the Princeton edition of W.H. Auden’s collected prose is complete in almost 5,000 pages, covering over 45 years of a writing life.
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  • Time’s Terpsichorean
    February 2018

    Time’s Terpsichorean

    Anthony Powell’s million-word, 12-volume novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, is one of the great achievements of postwar English literature, attracting near-universal praise for its subtle and textured evocation of England between World...
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  • What’s Sweet and Proper
    January 2018

    What’s Sweet and Proper

    Joseph Pearce has created what he calls a “verse tapestry,” a weaving together of the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, two English poets whose experiences in World War I brought them to profound anger and despondency, each of them...
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  • How to Live
    January 2018

    How to Live

    In her Preface to this collection, Catharine Savage Brosman tells the reader that these essays are of three kinds: recollections of her own life and family, commentaries on literature, and examinations of the current state of American culture.
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  • Surrounded by Books
    December 2017

    Surrounded by Books

    Surrounded by books has been a main circumstance of my long life. So it is now, near the end of my 94th year, when I am in my large library of perhaps 18,000 books in the western wing of my house in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
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  • Stepping Ashore
    November 2017

    Stepping Ashore

    The best poetry—great poetry—happens when sound, rhythm, and image bring about a mysterious feeling of wholeness that somehow draws mind, body, and spirit together in what both Yeats and Eliot envisioned as a unified dance.
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  • Realism of the Real
    October 2017

    Realism of the Real

    In calendar terms, the novel is set in the early 1990’s, a time that is further away from us than we care to realize. Although many of us remember the early 90’s, we forget how long ago it was, not in terms of years, a quarter of a century being...
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  • Making It Close
    October 2017

    Making It Close

    Bearings and Distances is a considerable achievement in construction, technique, narration, drama, characterization, human insight, and most other things I can think of that go to make a novel a fine novel.
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  • <em>Books in Brief</em>
    September 2017

    Books in Brief

    This is an interesting and well-executed account of the compositional, publishing, critical, and popular history of Victor Hugo’s famous novel that may—or may not—be “the novel of the century.”
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  • Still Unexplained
    September 2017

    Still Unexplained

    Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), dean of St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin, was a most remarkable man.
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  • <em>What the Editors Are Reading</em>
    July 2017

    What the Editors Are Reading

    Confined to a three-man tent on a rainy day in the canyons of southeastern Utah, I continued by lantern light my rereading of Cormac McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses, first published a quarter-century ago as the first volume in The Border...
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  • Getting Medieval on Middle Age
    June 2017

    Getting Medieval on Middle Age

    In my youth, I took degrees in history and philosophy, criminal justice, and law—areas of study that went through the Middle Ages on the way to becoming the grown-up disciplines they are today on the campus of Political Correctness University.
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  • <em>Sewanee</em>, Deconstructed
    June 2017

    Sewanee, Deconstructed

    “Make it new!” demanded Ezra Pound. Would he have liked the cover for the outrageous winter 2017 issue of the Sewanee Review, America’s oldest continuously published literary quarterly?
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  • No Place for Humanity: Our Free-Chosen Dystopia
    May 2017

    No Place for Humanity: Our Free-Chosen Dystopia

    Dystopian literature is a moral genre, a critique not only of power but, in its most outstanding classics, of progressivism. Without being conservative or right wing, it is often antileft.
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  • Reading Huxley Between the Headlines
    April 2017

    Reading Huxley Between the Headlines

    “Is it time to reread Brave New World?” asks the distinguished historian Anthony Beevor, in a recent article on Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. I think it is.
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  • Bizarre Baroque
    April 2017

    Bizarre Baroque

    This elegantly translated, superbly annotated new translation of his Tale of Tales—which Benedetto Croce called “the most remarkable book of the Baroque period”—should . . . be of abounding interest to anyone who has any proprietorial regard for...
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  • The End and the Beginning
    April 2017

    The End and the Beginning

    Return the printed word to its rightful primacy in your imagination by buying and reading this book. Savor its contents; this remarkable collection of essays will whet your appetite for the next “final” volume from John Lukacs.
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  • Adventures in Education
    September 2016

    Adventures in Education

    Last spring, students at Chelsea Academy performed A Man for All Seasons. Among the play’s many memorable scenes, the exchange in which Sir Thomas More advises Richard Rich to choose teaching over the pursuit of power, wealth, and fame...
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  • Faulkner in Japan: The “American Century”
    August 2016

    Faulkner in Japan: The “American Century”

    In August of 1955, William Faulkner traveled to Japan. Based in the out-of-the-way mountain province of Nagano, Faulkner lectured and temple-toured for two weeks, doing the bidding of the U.S. State Department, which had sponsored his trip.
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  • The Price of Being Human
    April 2016

    The Price of Being Human

    In her tenth volume of poetry, Catharine Savage Brosman has given readers a wide array of skillfully written and insightful poems that capture the poet’s keen observations of nature, her journeys from New Mexico to Antarctica, and her sense of...
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  • <em>Sui Generis</em>
    March 2016

    Sui Generis

    As every reader acquainted with the Sobran corpus will expect, there are many wonderful things here. Indeed, the book is full of them.
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  • Timely, and Timeless
    March 2016

    Timely, and Timeless

    “An essay is not an exercise in ‘thinking out loud.’ Rather, it is thinking while writing, or even perhaps the writing is, in its own way, our thinking things out.”
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  • A Christian Humanist
    February 2016

    A Christian Humanist

    Having access to personal correspondence and other private papers is every biographer’s dream, a potential difference between a decent biography and a great biography. In the case of Russell Kirk, the advantage was huge.
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  • Kidnapped
    February 2016

    Kidnapped

    Aldersey-Williams is obsessed, he says, with Browne, a fascinating combination of writer and protoscientist who, he believes, is “insufficiently known and unjustly neglected” by literary people and scientists alike.
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  • The Future of Publishing
    January 2016

    The Future of Publishing

    In 2004, a middle-aged English businessman named George Courtauld decided to put together a slim, illustrated album for his three young sons. It was called The Pocket Book of Patriotism.
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  • Religion Is Always There
    January 2016

    Religion Is Always There

    The varied and complex relations between religion and power can be understood only by means of extensive comparisons, between nations and across time. Who better to demonstrate this than Prof. David Martin, the doyen of the comparative sociology...
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  • Becoming Like Little Children
    December 2015

    Becoming Like Little Children

    What is it about the genre of fantasy fiction that makes it so enduringly popular? Is it a further sign of modernity’s malaise and its inability to cope with reality, or is it perhaps a sign of hope in our deplorably darkened days?
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  • Truth in Poetry
    December 2015

    Truth in Poetry

    Elizabeth Bishop (1911-79) is considered to be among the most important American poets of the 20th century. She was a U.S. Poet Laureate and won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and the Neustadt International Prize.
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  • The Incomparable Max
    November 2015

    The Incomparable Max

    Back in 1965, reviewing Lord David Cecil’s life of Beerbohm, W.H. Auden wrote that Beerbohm’s kind of “pure” essay, written “only to produce aesthetic satisfaction,” was a genre “to which no reader under sixty can bring himself to attend.”
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  • Beautiful Apologetics
    November 2015

    Beautiful Apologetics

    Art and literature are powerful mediums to convey timeless truths. In the Introduction to Catholic Literary Giants, Joseph Pearce declares the power of art to evangelize, a defense of the Catholic Faith he terms the “apologetics of beauty.”
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  • More Than an Inkling
    October 2015

    More Than an Inkling

    The Oxford Inklings by veteran Lewis and Tolkien scholar Colin Duriez, is a delightful book that will warm the hearts of those who share the author’s enthusiasm for his subject.
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  • The Poet: Companion of the Common Man
    October 2015

    The Poet: Companion of the Common Man

    What is the role of the poet in society? In a frequently misunderstood remark, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in “A Defence of Poetry” (1821) that poets are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
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  • Poetry’s Place in America
    August 2015

    Poetry’s Place in America

    When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited London in 1868, he was invited by Queen Victoria to an audience at Windsor Castle. She complimented him on his poetry, assuring him that all her servants read it.
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  • The Worst Verse Since 1915
    August 2015

    The Worst Verse Since 1915

    Exactly 50 years ago, T.S. Eliot died. Exactly 100 years ago, “Prufrock” appeared. What better moment, then, to perform the long-overdue public service of identifying the single worst poem to have been published during the last century?
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  • My Only Light
    August 2015

    My Only Light

    One of the things that James VI of Scotland liked about becoming James I of England—apart from the money—was that as head of the Church of England he would never be bossed about by a Scotch Calvinist minister again.
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  • Revisiting Brideshead
    June 2015

    Revisiting Brideshead

    Waugh’s Christian faith found expression in the novels published in the years following his conversion, especially in A Handful of Dust, which took its title from a line in The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, whose own conversion to...
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  • Blessed Be the Passionate
    June 2015

    Blessed Be the Passionate

    The object of passion might be well-nigh anything at all, so long of course as it is not vicious: stamp collecting or field hockey, cabinetry or the Civil War, boxing or bell ringing; in one case known to me personally, the hand-manufacture of...
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  • A Tale of Two Keys
    June 2015

    A Tale of Two Keys

    Everybody knows that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key as he watched the British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812.
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  • The Academic Shakespeareans
    May 2015

    The Academic Shakespeareans

    The last 30 years or so have seen a remarkable shift in the understanding of English religious history at the time of the Reformation.
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  • Biting the Bullet
    April 2015

    Biting the Bullet

    The flyleaf of this book sports a quote (“One finally gets the musical whole of Dostoevsky’s original”) from an enthusiastic notice in the New York Times Book Review of a new translation of The Brothers Karamazov, which the...
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  • The Nightmare That Wakes Us Up
    April 2015

    The Nightmare That Wakes Us Up

    G.K. Chesterton had a low opinion of his own abilities as a novelist. “[M]y real judgment of my own work,” he confessed, “is that I have spoilt a number of jolly good ideas in my time”.
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  • Mismatch
    April 2015

    Mismatch

    Philip Larkin, the poet-librarian of Hull University, died December 2, 1985, over 29 years ago. In the years since Andrew Motion published the first biography (1993), and Anthony Thwaite published both the first complete edition of the poems...
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  • Cultural Cleansing, Phase One
    March 2015

    Cultural Cleansing, Phase One

    In 1833 James Fenimore Cooper returned from a European tour to Coopers town—founded by his father, one of the first pioneers into the dangerous frontier of New York beyond the Hudson Valley.
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  • Good Grief
    March 2015

    Good Grief

    Poetry has to me never been what I have so often heard called a problem, and that was so for the simplest of reasons: It was never presented to me as a promblem until I was advanced in school, after which it was reformulated as a target of...
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  • Defining Work
    March 2015

    Defining Work

    This collection harkens back to a bygone era when the essay was a common medium of the literary artist.
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  • Two Ways of Dying
    February 2015

    Two Ways of Dying

    Thomas More’s world was one in which reminders of death were all around, and also one in which most people reflexively accepted the tenets of Christianity, including the knowledge that, in the words of an earlier English playwright, “the...
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  • Everyman’s Poet
    February 2015

    Everyman’s Poet

    Jared Carter, who has retired from a career in publishing, is a Midwestern poet of stature. He won the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets and the Poets’ Prize; he has had a Guggenheim fellowship and two fellowships from the...
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  • Epiphanies of Grace
    February 2015

    Epiphanies of Grace

    Oscar Wilde wrote several first-rate plays, on which his literary reputation principally rests, and a number of mostly second-rate poems.
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  • Why Christians Need the Classical Tradition
    December 2014

    Why Christians Need the Classical Tradition

    One of the most intriguing paradoxes of Dante’s Divine Comedy is the pervasive presence of pagan classical antiquity in what was meant to be (and is) Europe’s greatest Christian poem.
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  • Dante’s <em>Human</em> Comedy
    December 2014

    Dante’s Human Comedy

    Prima sedes a nemine indicator: “The First See is judged by no one.” Thus reads Canon 1404 of the current Code of Canon Law of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, and Canon 1556 of the previous code.
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  • Dante’s Path to Heaven
    December 2014

    Dante’s Path to Heaven

    Dante Alighieri died here in Ravenna, a little city where any sane man or woman might well choose to live and die. Like most people, I come here from time to time to stare stupidly at the Roman and Byzantine mosaics.
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  • A Question of Fairness
    December 2014

    A Question of Fairness

    It all comes down to questions of fairness. On January 27, 2007, a journalist by the name of Peter Finn published in the Washington Post an interview with Ivan Tolstoy, a literary scholar distantly related to the famous writer.
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  • Underground Man
    November 2014

    Underground Man

    Was it fair of Solzhenitsyn to call Peter the Great “a mediocre man, if not a barbarian”? I honestly don’t know.
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  • Speaking as an Irishman
    November 2014

    Speaking as an Irishman

    If the best advice one can give an aspiring writer of prose is to study the best models, then Jonathan Swift’s prose, as a lot of people who should know agree, provides the best model of all in English.
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  • The Ability to See
    November 2014

    The Ability to See

    Through books on subjects ranging from wine to hunting, music to environmentalism, British philosopher Roger Scruton has constructed a multifaceted attack on liberalism.
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  • Last of the Romans
    September 2014

    Last of the Romans

    Andrew Crocker did not attend his commencement exercises at Michigan State University in East Lansing on May 2. He was home dealing with family matters. So he missed the awarding of two honorary doctorates.
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  • The Left’s Long March
    September 2014

    The Left’s Long March

    On June 2, FOX News’s The Five were discussing the Harvard commencement speech of ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg, in which he pointed out that something like 95 percent of the faculty had supported Obama.
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  • Diversity Where It Counts
    August 2014

    Diversity Where It Counts

    A work of genuine scholarship tells us what we did not know before and does so felicitously—it is a contribution to the world’s body of knowledge.
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  • Reading Poe
    August 2014

    Reading Poe

    A reader responds to Egon Richard Tausch's article, "The Writer and the Lawyers" from the May issue.
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  • Free Spirit of Literature
    July 2014

    Free Spirit of Literature

    Sam Pickering (born 1941) recently retired from professing English—mostly, it would appear, creative writing. Oh! “Beware! Beware! . . . Weave a circle round him thrice / . . . / For he on honey-dew hath fed / and drunk the milk of paradise.”
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  • A Chestertonian Assault

    A Chestertonian Assault

    Whenever I receive a new number of The Chesterton Review, I groan inwardly and, from time to time, outwardly. Let me hasten to add that said groan is not a sign of tedium or disappointment—far from it.
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  • Black Hole Singing
    June 2014

    Black Hole Singing

    The complexities of A Deep but Dazzling Darkness revolve around the central theme of an intense, arduous, and unrelenting struggle for identity.
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  • Digital Enthusiasm
    June 2014

    Digital Enthusiasm

    At a recent dinner party someone remarked that the two secure careers remaining in America are business and science.
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  • <i>Si vis pacem</i>
    June 2014

    Si vis pacem

    “All may have if they dare try a glorious life or grave.” I saw those words—George Herbert’s, as it turned out—incised into the stonework of a church near Waterloo Station.
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  • The Way to Translate
    June 2014

    The Way to Translate

    There are people who think the classics are a dated luxury. Anyone who believes that should stay far away from the Christian Bible.
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  • The Writer and the Lawyers
    May 2014

    The Writer and the Lawyers

    Every fact of Edgar Allan Poe’s life is hotly disputed, as there is a wide range of sources, primary and secondary, to sift through, as well as thousands of utterly contradictory letters from dozens of Poe’s contemporaries.
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  • Eugenio Corti, R.I.P.

    Eugenio Corti, R.I.P.

    With the death of Eugenio Corti on February 4, Italian literature has lost the last of its great masters.
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  • Eugenio Corti, R.I.P.

    Eugenio Corti, R.I.P.

    With the death of Eugenio Corti on February 4, Italian literature has lost the last of its great masters.
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  • In Search of the Bourgeoisie
    March 2014

    In Search of the Bourgeoisie

    “How beastly the bourgeois is,” sneered D.H. Lawrence, “especially the male of the species.” What courage and imagination a writer must have to revile a social class that has been under attack for over a generation!
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  • Upstarts Like Shakespeare
    March 2014

    Upstarts Like Shakespeare

    I’ve no more desire than the next Anglophile with a framed colored engraving of the queen-empress on his office wall to pull down the aristocracy; to take away their estates and paintings and seats in the Lords and ancient Rollses resting on...
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  • Light of Being
    October 2013

    Light of Being

    Lest readers misunderstand, it must be said at the outset that these poems, selected from "Psaumes de tous mes temps" (1974), by Patrice de La Tour du Pin (1911-75), are not translations, even rough ones, from the Psalms of the Bible.
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  • Goodbye to All What?
    August 2013

    Goodbye to All What?

    As far back as I can remember, I had the feeling that I had been born some time after the end of everything that mattered.
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  • End of the World of Books
    August 2013

    End of the World of Books

    No matter. Next day, my relief was gone. I know that so much of my world has vanished. The world of books.
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  • Books Are for Blockheads!
    August 2013

    Books Are for Blockheads!

    Back in April, my old friend D.B. “Dukie” Kitchens called to inform me that I should soon expect in the mail an invitation to the inaugural Patriot Book Awards ceremony, to be held in Atlanta in late May. “What did I do to deserve this honor?”...
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  • The Joys of Winter
    January 2013

    The Joys of Winter

    The poems in this ninth full-length collection by Catharine Savage Brosman could have been composed only by a poet who has lived, studied, and written well through the spring, summer, and autumn and now on into the winter of life.
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  • Books and Lovers
    December 2012

    Books and Lovers

    Alexander Walker, however, disagrees with Hume about monogamy, calling marriage not merely a social but a natural institution. In other words, once hitched you don’t fool around, and he brings in apes as an example.
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  • Prophecies Fulfilled
    August 2012

    Prophecies Fulfilled

    Ray Bradbury’s passing, at the age of 91, evokes sadness and nostalgia for the lost world of my youth.
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  • Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.
    August 2012

    Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.

    On June 5, we lost not only one of our finest writers but a true American storyteller and one of the last of the book people. For Ray Bradbury, who passed away at the age of 91, was, like the remnant that Montag joins at the end of...
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  • Democracy and the Internet
    March 2012

    Democracy and the Internet

    At least one historian has noted that democracy is inherently inflationary. The phenomenon of inflation is not restricted to money and finance. Too much of anything reduces the value of that thing, and others with it.
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  • The Dream Dealer
    February 2012

    The Dream Dealer

    When I hear of the books in the history of publishing that were self-published, I react like Lenin, who, on hearing of the 5,000 print run of Mayakovsky’s poem 150,000,000, scoffed that it was “a colossal waste of paper.”
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  • Rome and Jerusalem
    December 2011

    Rome and Jerusalem

    William Blake was quite mad, even madder than most Swedenborgians—and that is saying a good deal—but Christians less insane than Blake have dreamed of building a new Jerusalem where the unpromising specimens of humanity they had known all their...
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  • Devil's Mama
    December 2011

    Devil's Mama

    The rockets that, according to Khru­sh­­chev, were coming off his production line “like sausages” ran on kerosene and liquid oxygen. So did Soviet foreign policy.
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  • Medieval Modernism
    October 2011

    Medieval Modernism

    Unlike certain 19th-century poets of difficult character or seemingly foredoomed, whom Paul Verlaine called maudits (accursed)—Rimbaud, Gérard de Nerval, Corbière, Verlaine himself—Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) was a pleasant,...
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  • Ayn the Antichrist
    October 2011

    Ayn the Antichrist

    “Who is John Galt?” again rings throughout the land. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s doorstop novel chronicling a general strike of the productive against the “looters,” gains resonance during times of increasing government control.
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  • Conan Doyle
    October 2011

    Conan Doyle

    On the evening of September 7, 1919, 60-year-old Arthur Conan Doyle sat down in a darkened room in Portsmouth, England, to speak with his son Kingsley, who had died in the Spanish-influenza epidemic ten months earlier.
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  • Unreal Bodies, Unholy Blood
    October 2011

    Unreal Bodies, Unholy Blood

    The vampire, possibly the most enduring mythic figure of the modern age, emerged out of the shadows of the Enlightenment. . .The emergence of the Romantic vampire cannot be adequately understood without reference to The Vampyre (1819), a novella...
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  • Under an Honorable Spell
    September 2011

    Under an Honorable Spell

    Even now that he’s a young man, Liam still thinks the world of Harry Potter. For him, it’s now a matter of nostalgia, I suspect. It all began when he started reading J.K. Rowling’s stories of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as a...
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  • Thomas Wolfe
    September 2011

    Thomas Wolfe

    Sometimes a great book and the place in which it was read combine to cast a spell so potent and so enduring that both book and place become forever entwined in the memory of the reader.
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  • No More Books
    September 2011

    No More Books

    This is strange to say, but observation bears it out: Almost all publishers and most booksellers and librarians neither know nor care anything about books.
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  • Anglo-Saxon Reality
    August 2011

    Anglo-Saxon Reality

    Some poems in Celtic languages are older, but the earliest sizable body of vernacular literature in Europe is the Old English, dating, by liberal estimation, from the seventh century to the twelfth.
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  • Community Revisited
    August 2011

    Community Revisited

    Dr. Wilson reassures me that I did not write in vain. There is a community-loving strain of American fiction, and I wonder whether it might be more fully rediscovered if one plumbed the best-seller lists before 1960.
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  • Peace With Zulus
    August 2011

    Peace With Zulus

    Like most literate Brits of my generation, I grew up immersed in the book 1066 and All That, the brilliant parody of historical writing published in 1930 by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman.
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  • Late in the Day
    July 2011

    Late in the Day

    This volume—which ranges widely in form and motif, from the sacred to the profane, from the personal past to the larger cultural and historical past, from a 1680 massacre of Franciscan martyrs to the cultural chaos of the 1960’s—provides ample...
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  • An American Family Covenant
    July 2011

    An American Family Covenant

    Andrew Lytle used to describe puritanism as “putting evil in the object,” whether that object be demon rum, tyrannical government, heretical beliefs, or defiling the environment.
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  • The King James Bible at 400: Love's Labor's Lost
    June 2011

    The King James Bible at 400: Love's Labor's Lost

    I was in seventh grade, and we were downstate for the annual Bible Bowl. Our little fundamentalist school fielded a team every year. We were the most conservative of fundamentalists, which mean that we were King James Only (affectionately KJVO).
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  • The Bookman
    December 2010

    The Bookman

    I remember Granddad as an old man, sitting in his reading chair or working in his garden, but you could still see the younger man in him, the one who had ridden the rails during the Depression, seeking work in California and Oregon with his...
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  • In Search of Flannery O'Connor
    November 2010

    In Search of Flannery O'Connor

    In late June, a friend and I traveled into Central Georgia, looking for Flannery O’Connor. Mary Ann had never heard of Flannery O’Connor. She didn’t know Hazel Motes from a hole in the ground and assured me she had never encountered “A Good Man...
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  • On the Sullivan Translation of David, Part II
    November 2010

    On the Sullivan Translation of David, Part II

    This is the second part of a speech on poet Alan Sullivan that Timothy Murphy has delivered to Catholic and Protestant congregations on the High Plains. (The first part appeared in the October issue.) Mr. Sullivan, a frequent contributor to...
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  • On the Sullivan Translation of David
    October 2010

    On the Sullivan Translation of David

    The Sumerian epic Gilgamesh predates King David by 2,000 years, so we know that poetry was an ancient art in the time of the king. But David is the first poet in human history whom we know by name, and we regard him as the father of lyric...
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  • View From the Left Bank
    October 2010

    View From the Left Bank

    After the Great War, Sylvia Beach founded, with money from her mother, Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookshop and lending library on the Left Bank in Paris. As the American expatriate wrote much later, “I have always loved books...
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  • Where the Demons Dwell: The Antichrist Right
    August 2010

    Where the Demons Dwell: The Antichrist Right

    Those blissfully ignorant of right-wing soap opera will have never noticed the Antichrist Right, a loose coalition of writers who regard the Church as the worst thing that ever happened to Western civilization.
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  • Mystery Tour
    July 2010

    Mystery Tour

    Larry Johnson’s first book of poems, Veins, promises an engagement with history and tradition that is respectful, lively, and current. Open to any page at random, and you will find examples of real language handled by a poet who obviously...
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  • Prometheus Unbound
    May 2010

    Prometheus Unbound

    This volume, belonging to the Iowa Whitman Series, is identified as “the 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition” of Leaves of Grass, third edition (1860). Originally issued in 1855, at the author’s expense, the collection was revised and...
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  • We Hardly Knew You

    We Hardly Knew You

    First, you realized that “Holden Caulfield” wasn’t innocent anymore; then, that he was old; then, that he is dead.
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  • Brush the Distance
    April 2010

    Brush the Distance

    Cath­arine Savage Brosman’s latest book, Breakwater, is a stimulating addition to her always intriguing poetic realm. The book is packed with superlative individual poems, and their cumulative effect strikes this reviewer as majestic.
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  • <i>The New Yorker</i> Under Glass
    March 2010

    The New Yorker Under Glass

    The first issue of The New Yorker (February 21, 1925) showed on its cover a dandy in top hat, high collar, and morning suit gazing through his monocle at a butterfly. The drawing is reproduced yearly, and butterflies became a cover motif.
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  • On the Quai at Smyrna
    March 2010

    On the Quai at Smyrna

    The literature in the English language on various long-established communities eradicated by the horrors of the 20th century is largely dominated by the Jewish holocaust.
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  • Cicero's Legacy
    February 2010

    Cicero's Legacy

    Once a believer in the blessings of modernity and classical liberalism, Dutch philosopher Andreas Kinneging now considers himself a “convert” to traditional thinking.
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  • The Body's Vest
    January 2010

    The Body's Vest

    Here, beyond question, is a milestone in American poetry. Although the Neo-Formalist movement has existed now for two or more decades, even this school has produced a great many works that, while formally polished, remain empty at their core.
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  • On the Death of Newspapers
    November 2009

    On the Death of Newspapers

    This past week, word came to me that a close friend and book-review editor of a major daily newspaper had been laid off after 16 years of service. The book page, one of the nation’s best, would be reduced by half, and his “replacement” would be...
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  • Christian No More
    September 2009

    Christian No More

    C.S. Lewis wrote about the “death of words.” In essence, he suggested that, whenever we feel compelled to append a noun with the adjectives true or real, it is safe to say that the noun has lost its meaning, or died. “No, no,...
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  • The Brazilian Cow
    September 2009

    The Brazilian Cow

    In the middle of the 19th century, Sydney Dobell wrote a poem that contained the following line: “Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!” This excursion into the absurd c. 1850 is readily recognized by readers of American poems or novels...
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  • Unnatural Causes
    August 2009

    Unnatural Causes

    “For me,” wrote P.D. James in her “fragment of autobiography,” Time To Be in Earnest, “one of the fascinations of detective fiction is the exploration of character under the revealing trauma of murder inquiry.”
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  • How the Historical Novel Has Changed!
    August 2009

    How the Historical Novel Has Changed!

    Should one read Hervey Allen or Anne Rice? Why should the question be asked at all? Why might a discriminating reader today even think of picking up either Hervey Allen’s massive best-seller of 1933, Anthony Adverse, or The Feast of...
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  • “Vampire-Loving Barmaid Hits Jackpot”
    August 2009

    “Vampire-Loving Barmaid Hits Jackpot”

    Well, of course you’re reading my compelling exposition because of its lapel-grabbing title, but did you notice that my title is in quotes? Oh, yes indeedy. That’s because I got the title from Motoko Rich’s article in the New York Times...
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  • Forgotten French
    June 2009

    Forgotten French

    Last October, the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to French novelist J.M.G. Le Clézio, the 13th French writer to win since the award’s inauguration in 1901 and the first to win since avant-garde novelist Claude Simon in 1985.
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  • Homage To a Friend
    February 2009

    Homage To a Friend

    Years ago, when a Vanderbilt graduate-school party was careening toward promiscuity, a quiet young woman, an English major, suddenly shocked everyone by saying, “Tell you what let’s do: Let’s all name the books we’ve never read.”
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  • Homeric Lessons
    February 2009

    Homeric Lessons

    “Should one have lived, only to read the twenty-third song of the Iliad, he could not lament of his existence,” commented G.E. Lessing. Of course, in Lessing's day, many of the literati could have read the Iliad in Greek.
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  • The Smoke of Satan
    February 2009

    The Smoke of Satan

    Before Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church appeared to be a fortress against the raging tide of modernity, a supremely self-confident institution that attracted converts of the caliber of Evelyn Waugh, G.K. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, and...
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  • Irreplaceable Men
    January 2009

    Irreplaceable Men

    Chronicles, as the premier journal of real American culture, takes notice, though belatedly, of the loss of two great scholars of American literature. They were both admirers and faithful readers of this magazine, to which I had the...
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  • The Burden of History
    November 2008

    The Burden of History

    Peter Green is one of the rarest birds in the academic chicken coop, a popular historian who combines careful scholarship and original opinions into a coherent account that respects its sources and yet attempts to go beyond them.
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  • The Journeys of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    October 2008

    The Journeys of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    The journey is over. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn survived war, the Gulag, and cancer; was exiled from his homeland, only to return, having outlived the Soviet Union as he once predicted he would; and has died in his beloved Russia.
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  • G.K. Chesterton, Peacemaker
    October 2008

    G.K. Chesterton, Peacemaker

    G.K. Chesterton’s writings are as prescient today as they were over three quarters of a century ago. When he wrote most of the essays in this anthology during the early 20th century, he was either warning Great Britain about the impending...
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  • George Garrett: 1929-2008
    September 2008

    George Garrett: 1929-2008

    A few years ago, an editor at The Oxford American telephoned to request that I write a piece for that journal about the Calder Willingham-Fred Chappell feud.
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  • Chinese Monkeys on Our Backs
    September 2008

    Chinese Monkeys on Our Backs

    An eminent British statesman once confessed to Horace Walpole that he had learned all he knew of the Wars of the Roses from reading Shakespeare’s histories. I do not recall who the statesman was, and I am only guessing that Walpole is the source...
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  • A Life in Literature
    September 2008

    A Life in Literature

    In May 2003, Christian Wiman was named the new editor of Poetry, the Chicago-based magazine that Harriet Monroe founded and made justly famous. This appointment came a year after Ruth Lilly made a massive gift to the magazine that brought its...
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  • Be Not Afraid
    September 2008

    Be Not Afraid

    In Leviticus, God gives Israel a number of blessings and curses that describe the benefits and consequences of keeping (or failing to keep) the Sinai covenant. One of the “covenant curses” is curiously descriptive of the jittery culture of fear...
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  • Perspectives on RPW
    September 2008

    Perspectives on RPW

    The late Mark Winchell’s recently published Robert Penn Warren: Genius Loves Company is a collection of essays focusing on Warren’s close associations and literary affinities.
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  • The Fortune Teller
    July 2008

    The Fortune Teller

    Two weeks before his wife announced her intention to sue for divorce and ten days before she moved out leaving him the furniture, the toy poodle, her wedding dress, and several pairs of worn-out shoes at the back of the closet, Samuel Adams...
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  • Seeing Clear
    July 2008

    Seeing Clear

    X.J. Kennedy is admired for his great skill in treating contemporary topics in traditional forms and especially for his cultivation of light verse. Throughout the present book, Kennedy’s writing illustrates what almost every literate person...
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  • Give Us Your Coyotes
    June 2008

    Give Us Your Coyotes

    From Aesop on, through Ovid, Chaucer, La Fontaine, and Dry­den, to George Orwell, the genre of the animal fable (whether in verse or prose) has been useful to moralists and critics of human behavior.
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  • Print Lives!
    May 2008

    Print Lives!

    The first thing one notices about Print Is Dead is that it is, in fact, a stack of bound pieces of paper with words printed on them. The author, Jeff Gomez, notes the irony of this in his Introduction.
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  • Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be
    April 2008

    Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

    I cannot remember the occasion, but I will not forget the voice—female, authoritative, and poised—that intoned a dismissal of the so-called yuppies as follows: “They oversee the distribution of toilet paper!”
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  • Little Aristocracies of Our Own
    April 2008

    Little Aristocracies of Our Own

    "How beastly the bourgeois is,/ Especially the male of the species." D.H. Lawrence’s lines are still quoted, though most often by writers who know nothing else of his poetry.
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  • Robert Frost: The Definitive Work
    April 2008

    Robert Frost: The Definitive Work

    During much of the 20th century, Robert Frost was widely regarded as our greatest living poet. Yet the Frost poems that students used to read in college English classes were those more easily accessible: “Mending Wall,” “Birches,” “Stopping by...
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  • Atheism
    February 2008

    Atheism

    Strange as it may sound, one of the best antidotes to the angry atheism of such disaffected Britons as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins is the recent science-fiction novel Eifelheim by Michael Flynn.
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  • Big Is Still Ahead
    January 2008

    Big Is Still Ahead

    This odd little book has a point to make—the title says it all—but it is a point that was made 34 years ago in a book that sold millions of copies and became famous around the world.
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  • Southwest Illuminations
    November 2007

    Southwest Illuminations

    Range of Light, Catharine Savage Brosman’s sixth full-length collection of poetry, returns to the Southwest landscapes of the poet’s youth.
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  • The New Math: 66 < 60
    October 2007

    The New Math: 66 < 60

    How much would you pay for a library card? In Rockford, if you are not a resident, you have to pay $140 per year for the privilege of using the Rockford Public Library system.
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  • Counting People and People Who Count
    September 2007

    Counting People and People Who Count

    My curriculum vitae still includes a paragraph describing my activities as an “educational consultant,” though it has been some years since I went to Washington to read grants or evaluate schools for the Department of Education.
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  • Cool Britannia Gothic
    September 2007

    Cool Britannia Gothic

    Does the public get the books it wants? Publishers, in their own interest, make it their business to see to that, whether it is a question of chemistry text-books or novels.
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  • Left Implosion
    September 2007

    Left Implosion

    A debate I attended at the Oxford Literary Festival highlighted growing tensions between classical Enlightenment thought and postmodernism—tensions that threaten to cause a fissure on the British left.
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  • Promises, Promises
    September 2007

    Promises, Promises

    The world of pulp and prevarication, whose deluged plateau the young woman I was in love with had fled, called to mind a private letter of Pasternak’s written in the 1920’s.
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  • A Humble Love
    August 2007

    A Humble Love

    John Betjeman’s evocative and educative television programs and his uniquely readable poetry have left an indelible image in the British public mind.
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  • <i>Un Monstre étrange</i>
    August 2007

    Un Monstre étrange

    To translate a play by Corneille (1606-84), one of the “big three” dramatists (along with Racine and Molière) of the classical period in France, is to challenge most trends of contemporary American taste, starting with the reigning, and...
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  • Abysmal Answers
    August 2007

    Abysmal Answers

    In June, I began reading The Inferno. This is my first excursion into Danteland, as I like to call it. I intended to finish the entire work by summer’s end, but my progress is slow, in part because I keep dozing off.
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  • Portraits: Some Notes on the Poetry of Growing Old
    July 2007

    Portraits: Some Notes on the Poetry of Growing Old

    Years and years ago—it would have to have been in 1958-59, a year that my wife and I and our two young children were living in Rome—I wrote a little satirical poem about famous old poets and what’s to become of them.
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  • The Enigmatic Professor Strauss, Part II
    July 2007

    The Enigmatic Professor Strauss, Part II

    One can safely claim that Leo Strauss was an enigmatic man, since he prided himself on being enigmatic. He raised the art of double-talk to the dignity of a requisite for any serious philosophizing.
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  • The Recovery of Metrical Verse
    July 2007

    The Recovery of Metrical Verse

    From before the time of Homer until the middle of the 19th century, almost all poets in the Western literary tradition wrote measured verse—that is, poems with a regular repeated rhythmical pattern.
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  • An American Life
    May 2007

    An American Life

    It is not impossible, merely difficult, for the author of a highly praised first novel to produce a second worthy of its predecessor.
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  • The Better Way
    May 2007

    The Better Way

    The- Missouri Ozarks are the western outpost of Appalachia. The hills are not as high as their elder brothers to the east, but they plunge down into narrow, labyrinthine valleys, where streams of cool, green water run.
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  • A Great Tradition Renewed
    April 2007

    A Great Tradition Renewed

    Literary feuds, like ideas, have consequences. After Sir Walter Scott read a disparaging review of his Marmion in the Edinburgh Review, the bard of the Borders decided that what British life needed above all was a journal that would give...
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  • Imagining the Permanent Things
    March 2007

    Imagining the Permanent Things

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Modern Age, the flagship journal of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, edited now for almost half of that time by George A. Panichas.
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  • Carrying the Fire
    January 2007

    Carrying the Fire

    In one of his rare interviews several years back, Cormac McCarthy suggested that writers who are not preoccupied with death are simply “not serious.” Chaucer might have objected, of course, not to mention Cervantes, Austen, or Swift.
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  • Aaron’s Tormentors
    November 2006

    Aaron’s Tormentors

    This summer, as the odious Barry Bonds advanced toward Henry Aaron’s home-run record, I told a friend: “I’m going to write Bonds a letter. And it’s going to be even more vitriolic than the one I wrote Aaron 30 years ago.”
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  • Agrarian Poetics
    November 2006

    Agrarian Poetics

    Over the past four decades, Wendell Berry has been one of the most prolific writers in America, averaging around a book each year. Much of this output has been in the realm of poetry, for which he has been honored with the T.S. Eliot Award, the...
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  • The Root of All Evil
    October 2006

    The Root of All Evil

    When George Bernard Shaw decided to devote himself to the destruction of civilization (or, as he would have preferred to call it, the cause of socialism), he spent years studying political economy.
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  • Pictures Into Words
    October 2006

    Pictures Into Words

    Readers of Chronicles already know that David Middleton is an extraordinarily accomplished poet. For much of the rest of the reading world, unfortunately, he is a well-kept secret.
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  • Holmes & Sons
    September 2006

    Holmes & Sons

    During a recent bout of infirmity, I turned for solace to the greatest storyteller of modern times, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). If this sounds like excessive praise, I ask you—no, I defy you—to name his superior, or even his nearest...
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  • In a Savage World
    September 2006

    In a Savage World

    This latest volume of George Garrett’s stories and sketches is proof that the old fox has not forgotten how to raid our American cultural henhouse without running away with a few plump chickens.
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  • Sex and Poverty
    September 2006

    Sex and Poverty

    The poor smelled, and there was nothing to be done about it. “Middle-class people believe that the working class are dirty,” George Orwell recalled, “and, what is worse, that they are somehow inherently dirty.”
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  • Socialism Is Theft
    August 2006

    Socialism Is Theft

    The troubles of youth have long been a staple of popular fiction. In 19th-century fiction, wellborn young men borrowed against their future inheritance in order to pay for the wine, women, and song that red-blooded young men have always pursued.
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  • O Literature, Thou Art Sick
    July 2006

    O Literature, Thou Art Sick

    The present condition of literature (as that term is ordinarily understood), at least in America, is obviously unhealthy. Its illness is the result not only of internal undermining, “the invisible worm” of Blake’s “The Sick Rose,” but of...
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  • Rendering Us Again in Affection
    July 2006

    Rendering Us Again in Affection

    Wendell Berry is the author of over 40 books and has been writing about conservation, community, and the necessity of good farming for over four decades.
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  • The Way Home
    May 2006

    The Way Home

    Wendell Berry’s latest harvest of essays contains characteristically wise observations on mobility, industrial agriculture, and other maladies of our age, but it also displays a Berry seldom glimpsed—that is, Wendell Berry as a rural Kentucky...
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  • No Country for Anyone
    April 2006

    No Country for Anyone

    The few reviews I’d read of Cormac McCarthy’s new novel, including the lead in the New York Times Book Review, though laudatory, had little more to say than that No Country for Old Men would (will) make a terrific screenplay. So...
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  • Return to Manor Farm
    February 2006

    Return to Manor Farm

    The protagonist of a novel I’m now writing speaks in the voice of George Orwell, except that he uses the manly, tobacco-and-gin accents of reason, detachment, and persuasion to discuss love, rather than politics.
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  • Lost in Translation
    February 2006

    Lost in Translation

    In one of his earliest essays, Walker Percy expounded a theory of “Metaphor as Mistake,” and it is true that many insights, not all of them metaphorical, can arise from misunderstanding or, as happens to me more frequently these days, mishearing...
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  • Seasoned Travels
    February 2006

    Seasoned Travels

    Readers of Chronicles are familiar with Chilton Williamson, Jr.’s regular contributions under the title The Hundredth Meridian, a rubric launched in the 1990’s. The first two dozen or so of these columns were conceived as chapters in a...
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  • The Mongrel Din
    January 2006

    The Mongrel Din

    This year marks the centennial of the publication of Owen Wister’s Lady Baltimore, a comedy of manners about a wedding cake.
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  • The Romantic Reaction
    December 2005

    The Romantic Reaction

    In the Afterword to the third edition of The Pilgrim's Regress, C.S. Lewis argued that Romanticism had acquired so many different meanings that it had become meaningless. "I would not now use this word . . . to describe anything," he complained.
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  • An Enduring Feast
    December 2005

    An Enduring Feast

    Some cult writers are admired more for what they mean than for what they accomplish. The works of the novelist, diarist, and prolific reviewer Anthony Powell (1905-2000) enjoyed only modest commercial success.
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  • Reattacking Leviathan
    November 2005

    Reattacking Leviathan

    In 1989, Russell Kirk recalled browsing through the library at Michigan State College as an “earnest sophomore” over 50 years earlier. It was there that he happened upon Donald Davidson’s The Attack on Leviathan.
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  • The Autodidact at Work and Play
    September 2005

    The Autodidact at Work and Play

    Every writer is an autodidact, for reasons that are fairly obvious when you think about it. First, the business of writing (as distinguished from composition) cannot be taught but must be learned by imitation and by practice.
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  • Confessions of an Autodidact
    September 2005

    Confessions of an Autodidact

    In what follows, I shall recommend a few books that I have found valuable and then offer some suggestions on how to analyze critically what you are reading.
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  • <em>Raisonn&eacute; D&eacute;r&egrave;glement</em>
    August 2005

    Raisonné Dérèglement

    Whether all authorities agree with what is averred here—that Ernest Hemingway was one of America’s greatest writers—is uncertain. Surely, however, his work constituted a watershed; if his chastened style and objective manner no longer seem...
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  • Play It Again, Plum!
    July 2005

    Play It Again, Plum!

    Robert McCrum demurs from critical comparisons of P.G. Wodehouse with the great English writers, including Shakespeare and Dickens, arguing that “Wodehouse is a miniaturist and his work is not like theirs.
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  • A Dirge Transposed
    July 2005

    A Dirge Transposed

    “A novel,” wrote Stendhal, “is a mirror carried along a road.” In Cyn-thia Shearer’s new book, the road, literally speaking, is that between the invented town of Madagascar, Mississippi, where the action is centered, and Memphis, the other major...
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  • Citizen Faulkner
    June 2005

    Citizen Faulkner

    If we wish to understand and profit from a great artist, the essential thing to grasp is his vision, as unfolded in his work. Much less important is something that, unlike the God-given vision, he shares with all of us—his opinions.
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  • Metaphoric Angels
    June 2005

    Metaphoric Angels

    Richard Wilbur’s long and distinguished writing career demonstrates that a poet can go against literary fashions, shunning what passes for received wisdom, and still earn critical praise and become an important figure on the literary landscape.
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  • Music, Technology, and Psychological Warfare
    March 2005

    Music, Technology, and Psychological Warfare

    The late Sam Shapiro used to tell a story about two Englishmen in China who wanted to demonstrate the superiority of their culture to one of the mandarins they had met.
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  • Man and Everyman
    March 2005

    Man and Everyman

    The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis’s masterful critique of the relativism that was as rampant in his day as it is in ours, represented the culmination of the author’s quest for the quintessential meaning of man’s being and purpose.
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  • Beautiful Terror
    March 2005

    Beautiful Terror

    The face is familiar, but not the gray hair. To some few, it may be so from Our Gang shorts from the late 30’s and early 40’s, known by the moniker of Mickey Gubitosi.
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  • Room to Pass
    March 2005

    Room to Pass

    Few people read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) much anymore. Lines from his poems were once on the tips of tongues the world over. Students used to memorize “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” and lines from “Evan-geline” and “Hiawatha.”
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  • The Abolition of Learning
    March 2005

    The Abolition of Learning

    In 1997, the headmaster of the English secondary school in which I was teaching ordered a bibliocaust. The inspectors were coming, and he wanted our library to look up-to-date.
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  • Playing Poetry With a Net
    March 2005

    Playing Poetry With a Net

    In the Introduction to his classic anthology of Fugitive verse, William Pratt writes: “Modern American poetry abounds in individualism, but two groups of poets have affected its course profoundly.”
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  • The Remnant’s Library
    February 2005

    The Remnant’s Library

    Chilton Williamson has taken an important step toward giving postmodern conservatism a set of respectable literary credentials.
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  • The Peculiar Path
    February 2005

    The Peculiar Path

    A Bavarian legal scholar who has been attached to the U.N. Secretariat and to the E.U. Commission in Brussels, Josef Schüsslburner has disagreements with the German Basic Law, enacted in 1949 as an interim constitution for the West German Federal...
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  • First Prize, Second Hand, Third Rate
    January 2005

    First Prize, Second Hand, Third Rate

    With difficulty, in a diminished capacity, or perhaps with an alienated attitude because I was watching good old Benny Hill reruns on the BBC America channel at the time, I have become somehow dimly aware that prizes have been awarded to someone...
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  • Daffodils for Wordsworth
    December 2004

    Daffodils for Wordsworth

    The name Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is a wonderfully poetic one, conjuring an image of a lover of horses on a carefree adventure.
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  • At Home in the Cosmos
    December 2004

    At Home in the Cosmos

    Nelson Head, a boy in a story by Flannery O’Connor, is reared in the rural South, with little sign of education and in obvious isolation. Yet the boy is arrogant to the point of impudence, because he was born in the city.
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  • Dropping the Masks
    September 2004

    Dropping the Masks

    The 1997 movie Wilde opens with a shot of Oscar Wilde (played by Stephen Fry) being lowered by bucket into a Colorado silver mine, where he recites his poetry and chats with shirtless, sweaty miners, who are obviously thrilled at a visit...
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  • A Living Library of the Law Revived
    August 2004

    A Living Library of the Law Revived

    Whatever the mess his personal life may have been, Sir Edward Coke's professional accomplishments were the stuff of immortality.
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  • Russell Kirk and the Negation of Ideology
    July 2004

    Russell Kirk and the Negation of Ideology

    Though ten years have passed since his death on April 29, 1994, Russell Kirk has yet to be the subject of a definitive intellectual biography.
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  • Till Earth Was
    June 2004

    Till Earth Was

    Poet John Clare (1793-1864) seems to have grown from the soil. His last name derives from the word clayer—someone who manures and enriches clay. As a farm laborer, he drew sustenance from the earth.
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  • As Long as I’m Doing It
    June 2004

    As Long as I’m Doing It

    Writing—literary creation in the fullness of the sense that we have known it in the previous century and even in the one before, from the French and Russian masters, the daft Irish, the mad Yankees, the haunted Southerners (and from elsewhere, of...
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  • Custom and Ceremony
    April 2004

    Custom and Ceremony

    The first volume of R.F. Foster’s acclaimed biography of William Butler Yeats (The Apprentice Mage) appeared in 1997. Yeats’ son and daughter (now in their 70’s) chose him to be their father’s official biographer after their previous...
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  • Letting the Catholic Out of the Baggins
    January 2004

    Letting the Catholic Out of the Baggins

    In the United Kingdom, back in 1997, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was voted “the greatest book of the twentieth century” in several major polls, emerging as a runaway winner ahead of its nearest rival, Orwell’s 1984.
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  • Making the Whole
    November 2003

    Making the Whole

    As a race, the British are considered neither the most intellectual nor the most artistic, Britain’s role in the invention of modern physics (Newton) and modern painting (Turner) notwithstanding.
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  • Superior Fiction
    October 2003

    Superior Fiction

    One of the pleasures of fiction is the opportunity that novels, short stories, and epic poems give us to escape from our own everyday world into an alien world of gods and heroes (as in the Iliad) or knights and wizards (Tennyson’s Idylls),...
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  • Lies and More Lies
    October 2003

    Lies and More Lies

    Having come across several references this spring to a French literary critic, Jean Sévillia, who is criticizing leftist historical reconstructions, I read his two most recent books, Le Terrorisme Intellectuel (2000) and...
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  • My Ground, Myself
    October 2003

    My Ground, Myself

    To a woman who has spent several decades of her life in New Orleans, a city that lies mostly below sea level, any trip out is a journey to higher ground.
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  • Sophocles&rsquo; <em>Antigone</em>
    September 2003

    Sophocles’ Antigone

    Sophocles’ Antigone is a drama about a young woman who defies orders because she believes them to be wrong. Her uncle Creon, the ruler of Thebes, had proclaimed that no one was to give the rites of burial to Antigone’s brother...
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  • Back to Reality
    September 2003

    Back to Reality

    In the official version of modernity, Aristotle was a false idol overthrown by brave men seeking the truth. In reality, Aristotle never intended to set up a reigning ideology; his whole method of patient accumulation of fact and careful analysis...
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  • If It Ain’t Broke . . .
    September 2003

    If It Ain’t Broke . . .

    Greek teachers are frequently asked which text they recommend for introductory Greek. Although many new textbooks have come along since 1928, when An Introduction to Greek by Henry Crosby and John Schaeffer was first published, none has...
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  • A Northern Light
    August 2003

    A Northern Light

    Living in Italy, as I have done for some years, may result in an incremental loss of the vivid sensation, in my view all but indispensable in a writer, that the world as a whole is a barbarous place.
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  • Nothing Is Dead
    August 2003

    Nothing Is Dead

    Since she died in 1964 at the age of 39, Flannery O’Connor has not receded from literary awareness nor from a larger consciousness we might call philosophical or spiritual or religious.
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  • Sublime Misrule
    June 2003

    Sublime Misrule

    X.J. Kennedy can be said almost to be a popular literary figure. (A New Jersey native, Joseph Charles Ken-nedy, born in 1929, adopted his pen name upon settling in Massachusetts.)
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  • MacArthur Park Is Melting in the Dark
    May 2003

    MacArthur Park Is Melting in the Dark

    Now, before I have my say about David L. Ulin’s new compendium of writing on Los Angeles, there are just a few things that need to be said about my own “Hollywood years,” because I get tired of being asked about that episode by nosy people who...
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  • Agonies of Intrigue
    May 2003

    Agonies of Intrigue

    Lord Byron was the most fascinating literary figure of the 19th century. Fiona MacCarthy’s solid and competent biography covers the ground in great detail (the deformed foot, the scandalous exile, the endless wandering, the early death in...
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  • The Virtues of Dorothy Parker
    April 2003

    The Virtues of Dorothy Parker

    Literary biography is often an opaque filter for the work of modern writers. The interference comes not so much from the cockeyed analysis we may encounter of an artist’s life but from the mass of irrelevant detail.
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  • Be Afraid of Virginia Woolf
    March 2003

    Be Afraid of Virginia Woolf

    “CAUTION: Reading Virginia Woolf may be hazardous to your health.” This warning should be slapped on Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours and its film adaptation by Stephen Daldry.
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  • My Hometown
    December 2002

    My Hometown

    Saint Augustine did not originally desire to be a pastor. When, in 387, he finally surrendered to the Holy Ghost in the garden of his “philosophers’ estate” in the countryside outside Milan, he intended to follow the example of Saint Anthony and...
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  • Petrarch’s <em>The Ascent of Mount Ventoux</em>
    June 2002

    Petrarch’s The Ascent of Mount Ventoux

    At the time fixed we left the house, and by evening reached Malaucene, which lies at the foot of the mountain, to the north. Having rested there a day, we finally made the ascent this morning, with no companions except two servants; and a most...
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  • Ho, Ho, Ho, and a Bottle of Fun
    May 2002

    Ho, Ho, Ho, and a Bottle of Fun

    For the fifth time, Señor Pérez-Reverte, the Spanish novelist and international journalist, has presented “a novel of suspense” that adheres to his formula, and this may be his best yet, or at least his longest.
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  • Words Like Quartz
    May 2002

    Words Like Quartz

    If even a rough correspondence between poetic accomplishment and public reputation existed in America today, R.S. Gwynn would be one of our most widely read and highly honored poets.
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  • Chesterton and the Gentile Problem
    April 2002

    Chesterton and the Gentile Problem

    In 1961, Garry Wills published his first book, a penetrating study of G.K. Chesterton. It wasn’t a huge success, and it soon went out of print.
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  • Frankly, My Dear
    December 2001

    Frankly, My Dear

    The publication of Gone With the Wind in 1936 was a major event in publishing—if not literary—history, compounded by the overblown movie of 1939 and by worldwide sales that continue to this day.
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  • The Boys in the Back Room
    November 2001

    The Boys in the Back Room

    If you are looking for literary reflections or information about the intentions of the author of Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon, and The Class Key, forget about it. There is precious little of that in Dasthell...
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  • A Life in Sketches
    November 2001

    A Life in Sketches

    If Nevada can be said to have a first family equivalent to the Kennedys of Massachusetts, that family is the Laxalts. This immigrant Basque clan of a century's residence has given America a U.S. senator (Paul Laxalt, now retired) and a poet...
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  • Prince of Painters
    August 2001

    Prince of Painters

    Titian, the greatest painter of the Venetian Renaissance, was born about 1488 in Pieve di Cadoro, in the foothills of the Dolomites. He came down to Venice at the age of nine and was apprenticed to the workshops of Gentile and Giovanni Bellini.
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  • Becoming George Orwell
    June 2001

    Becoming George Orwell

    George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 in Motihari, India, where his father worked for the Indian Civil Service as a sub-deputy opium agent in charge of manufacturing the narcotic for transport to China.
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  • Put a Lid on It
    June 2001

    Put a Lid on It

    How often we must reflect today that the salt hath lost its savor. At a "reading" at Queens College not long ago, I saw and heard Norman Mailer reading "poems" to his audience. He showed all the innocent delight of a child, and he was well received.
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  • English Tracts
    May 2001

    English Tracts

    For the last 300 years, "England" and "Britain" have been largely synonymous. When Glasgow-born General Sir John Moore lay dying at Corunna, his last words were "I hope the people of England will be satisfied.
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  • Two Between the Ribs
    May 2001

    Two Between the Ribs

    How does he get away with it? Ever since Bonfire of the Vanities, I have wondered at Tom Wolfe's success. The success itself is well deserved: Wolfe is a dazzling writer, without peer as an observer of contemporary American life.
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  • I Am Not Ashamed Either
    May 2001

    I Am Not Ashamed Either

    Ever since the cinéaste Nino Frank first used the term in France in 1946 (he never said he invented it), there has been considerable controversy about the meaning of "film noir" and various attempts to define it, some more or less authoritative.
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  • The Janus Faces of War
    May 2001

    The Janus Faces of War

    A. D. Harvey's study of art and war, while noting the suffering caused by the European wars of the 19th and 20th centuries, highlights the artistic and spiritual creativity released by these struggles.
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  • Rome As You Find It
    May 2001

    Rome As You Find It

    For Englishmen, the Roman Forum was nearly as much a part of their political heritage as the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey. Since Colonial America was a part of British culture, educated American colonists shared in the British reverence...
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  • Two Rooms With a View
    May 2001

    Two Rooms With a View

    It has been the usual 56-hour day spent in airports under siege from CNN and microwave-burned pizza, cramped into buses, taxis, and the midget seats of American Airlines steerage with two varieties of undrinkable wine-product to wash down the...
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  • No Place Like Home
    March 2001

    No Place Like Home

    Fred Chappell's Family Gathering, his first book of poems since 1995's Spring Garden: New and Selected Work, is a collection of short verse portraits that allows Chappell to display his considerable gifts for miniature (a talent...
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  • The Way Forward Is With a Broken Head
    March 2001

    The Way Forward Is With a Broken Head

    Symptoms: Health fine until reads Walker latest. Immediate somatic distress of all systems inch pulmonary; digestive crisis, upper, middle, and lower; cardiac irregularity; low and high blood pressure; skin rashes and lesions; emerging...
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  • The Ax, the Scythe, and the Pen
    February 2001

    The Ax, the Scythe, and the Pen

    As we speed along the information highway at the close of one millennium and the beginning of another, it might be wise to stop for a moment, if not by woods on a snowy evening, at least at the next rest area.
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  • Causing a Stir
    December 2000

    Causing a Stir

    The Onion caused quite a stir a couple of weeks ago when it was read by an unsuspecting Christian.
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  • Poetry in Ploughing
    November 2000

    Poetry in Ploughing

    Totally innocent of the myth of progress and the scandal of death and failure that account for modern sentimentality in its most wrongheaded and obnoxious form, Set the Ploughshare Deep is as realistic a work as a novel by Thomas Hardy or the Old...
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  • Frankenstein's Children
    November 2000

    Frankenstein's Children

    In 1974, I first encountered one of the creatures E. Michael Jones writes about in Monsters From the Id. It appeared in the guise of one of my graduate-school classmates. She was a bright, pretty woman who seemed unusually self-possessed and...
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  • Obscurely Called: Richard Wilbur at Eighty
    September 2000

    Obscurely Called: Richard Wilbur at Eighty

    Now nearly 80 years of age, Richard Wilbur has recently published "Mayflies", a new book of poems and translations.
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  • Escape From Gotham
    August 2000

    Escape From Gotham

    Woiwode's time in North Dakota has been spent mostly on the business of living, but he has done some good writing as well.
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  • On Her Way
    August 2000

    On Her Way

    The new book's premise is intriguing. It's 1961. Elderly Scottish professor Georgina Fletcher leaves an Oxford pub with a tall, argumentative American.
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  • The Displaced Person
    June 2000

    The Displaced Person

    "The depravity of Tiberius, or the salacity of Suetonius," wrote Anthony Burgess, "had left its mark on an island all sodomy, lesbianism, scandal and cosmopolitan artiness."
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  • Hell Man
    June 2000

    Hell Man

    Though famous as a melodrama, The Maltese Falcon has not yet completely received its due as a composition, as a poem made out of words.
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  • The Art of Creation An Interview With Dean Koontz
    April 2000

    The Art of Creation An Interview With Dean Koontz

    G.K. Chesterton was an avid reader of popular fiction, particularly the so-called "penny dreadfuls," whose everyday morality and concentration on plot and character made them more wholesome reading than the pretentious productions of modernist...
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  • Storytellers and Fakers
    April 2000

    Storytellers and Fakers

    A writer, asked during a literary party what her new novel was about, turned on the questioner with an expression combining irritation, indignation, and pity, and replied, "My novels aren't about things!"
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  • Literary Worth and Popular Taste
    April 2000

    Literary Worth and Popular Taste

    As an academic trained in the study and appreciation of literature, I have spent the better part of my life staunchly defending the ramparts of literary endeavor against the slings and arrows of outrageous pop-fiction lovers.
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  • The Trybe of Yvor
    April 2000

    The Trybe of Yvor

    Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky's remembrance of his first day in class with a professor who—if his stubborn presence in the work of several generations of students and now even the students of those students is any measure—must have been one of the...
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  • Reflections in Print
    April 2000

    Reflections in Print

    Henry Regnery (1912-1996), as Jeffrey Nelson observes in his introduction, was "one of the unsung heroes of the last half-century of American cultural life."
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  • The Newspaper West
    April 2000

    The Newspaper West

    In Flint's Honor, Richard Wheeler has painted a realistic portrait of life in a Colorado mining town, with special emphasis on the importance of newspapers in the civic life of the frontier West.
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  • Freud With Teeth
    April 2000

    Freud With Teeth

    With author's fees in eight figures and print runs to match, Thomas Harris's cannibal is what publishers call a phenomenon. "I should've written that!" agonize America's ambitious housewives on their way to becoming failed writers.
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  • The Golden Goose: A Recollection
    April 2000

    The Golden Goose: A Recollection

    In the bright, warm autumn of 1947 that followed a chilly summer, several hundred bewildered 17-year-olds found the Ohio State University campus in Columbus swarming with an alien and formidable species: veterans.
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  • Best of British Conservatism
    March 2000

    Best of British Conservatism

    British conservative circles are awash with books at the moment. Apart from the usual think-tank reports and surveys, we have seen recently John Major's and Norman Lamont's memoirs, John Redwood's Death of Britain, and the latest...
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  • Waugh Stories
    February 2000

    Waugh Stories

    Two vignettes illustrate Evelyn Waugh's character. One has to do with art; the other, protocol. In 1951, Evelyn Waugh commissioned a painting depicting the interior of a plane's cabin.
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  • A Running Gag
    January 2000

    A Running Gag

    The Nobel Peace Prize is by now a running gag—or rather a running sore. Like the Prize for Literature, given nearly every year to an untalented anti-writer as obscure in his own country as he is in the rest of the world, the Peace Prize is...
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  • Our Time
    December 1999

    Our Time

    In a regional literary world ripe with poseurs, Ivan Doig may be the true descendant of Wallace Stegner.
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  • The Militia of Love
    November 1999

    The Militia of Love

    Snow Man follows Robert Drummond, a hairy and occasionally abominable patriot, a Maine militiaman who is between assassinations, as it were.
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  • Wisconsin Apocalypse
    November 1999

    Wisconsin Apocalypse

    Since I was going to fish in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I decided like any bookish person to read some books about the place. I expect I own all of Gordon Weaver's ten or twelve books, and I went digging through them again to sec which ones...
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  • Chicken Soup Starring: The Marx Bros.
    October 1999

    Chicken Soup Starring: The Marx Bros.

    There is something compelling in reading about spies and something compelling as well about spying, or we would not have so many spies to read about, fictional or not.
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  • New West Gothic
    October 1999

    New West Gothic

    The American short story is moribund. The passing of giants has relegated the form to the purgatory of academic hackdom and its innumerable ideological ax-grinders paying homage to a plethora of multicultural grievances.
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  • M.E. Bradford and the Barbarism of Reflection
    September 1999

    M.E. Bradford and the Barbarism of Reflection

    This is the first critical study of M.E. Bradford, whose untimely death in 1993 silenced the most eloquent voice ever raised on behalf of the permanent things as they are revealed in the Southern tradition.
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  • <em>En Garde!</em>
    September 1999

    En Garde!

    There's a confusion here between image and reality, between money and politics, that's often referred to as "the publishing industry," which exists in parallel to "the fashion industry," "the film industry," "the music business," "politics,"...
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  • Invaders of Our Land
    June 1999

    Invaders of Our Land

    Wendell Berry is, without doubt, the poetic star of environmentalism. I do not know of any other poet of his stature in the present or past who has taken his stand, as the Agrarians said they did, and stood by it so steadfastly into his 60's.
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  • Me and Mecosta: Studying With Russell Kirk
    April 1999

    Me and Mecosta: Studying With Russell Kirk

    Russell Kirk played a prominent role in founding and promoting modern conservatism in America—not neoconservatism, but the more traditional variety which emphasizes culture and tradition more than political programs and economics.
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  • Mauve Gloves & Stoics, Thackeray, Wolfe
    March 1999

    Mauve Gloves & Stoics, Thackeray, Wolfe

    When Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities came out in England more than a decade ago, I reviewed it in the Times with that special elation obscure Soviet dissidents once reserved for their brethren mentioned by name at disarmament conferences...
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  • A.D. Hope: Poet of the Antipodes
    March 1999

    A.D. Hope: Poet of the Antipodes

    The other day, as I was reading an article about Keats, I thought suddenly of A.D. Hope. I started imagining a time when young writers would lose interest in the romance of a vivid English youth extinguished by early death.
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  • Ah, Wilderness!
    February 1999

    Ah, Wilderness!

    Having written books on the Balkans (Balkan Ghosts) and the most disorganized parts of Africa (The Ends of the Earth), Robert Kaplan, contributing editor to the Atlantic Monthly, has turned his eye on the western half of North America.
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  • The Lady From Niger
    January 1999

    The Lady From Niger

    Christopher Patten warns at the start that his engagingly written book is not a memoir. Though the core of it deals with the author's tenure as the British Empire's final governor of Hong Kong (1992-1997), Patten employs an impressionistic and...
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  • Experiencing Civilization
    November 1998

    Experiencing Civilization

    In the home, away from the scientific model that permeates our Deweyized, politically correct classrooms, young children can experience the thrill and wonder of discovering our common cultural heritage in the company and under the direction of...
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  • Scorched Earth
    November 1998

    Scorched Earth

    The great debate over the humanities curriculum is the one that never took place. What some disgruntled academics call "the traditional curriculum" is really the hopeless hodgepodge that was cobbled together in the period that stretches, roughly...
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  • Georgics on My Mind
    November 1998

    Georgics on My Mind

    "Farmer-poet" is one of those hyphenated epithets that summons up a vision, and for most readers of American poetry that vision is embodied by Robert Frost, who, the legend has it, turned out memorable poems in spare moments stolen from...
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  • Poetry Now
    October 1998

    Poetry Now

    Fred Chappell's A Way of Happening is a gathering of some 17 critical pieces, together with an important personal essay about teaching writing and an essay-length introduction, published between 1985 and 1997, all but three written expressly for...
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  • Greatheart!
    September 1998

    Greatheart!

    In the foreword to Brother to Dragons , Robert Penn Warren writes "historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living,...
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  • A Generous Man
    September 1998

    A Generous Man

    One of the most important things to say about George Garrett is that his is a generous talent, not limited or confined by a narrow point of view. It is as though he has been searching for the meaning of life in many ways and modes of expression,...
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  • Against the Racketeers
    August 1998

    Against the Racketeers

    In January and April, Wistrich—a highly polemical writer with few scholarly accomplishments—castigated Lindemann in Commentary as an apologist for anti-Semites and Cambridge University for putting "its imprint on so biased and ignominious a work."
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  • The Leading Man
    August 1998

    The Leading Man

    On June 16,1956, Ted Hughes married Sylvia Plath in London. He was a recent graduate of Cambridge University, working for the J. Arthur Rank Organization; she, a Smith College graduate at Cambridge on a Fulbright scholarship.
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  • Beautiful Afternoons
    August 1998

    Beautiful Afternoons

    "You have been writing," the author's alter ego tells him at the conclusion of this book, "about the decline not of the West but of the Anglo-American upper class."
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  • A Good Thing Not to Do
    July 1998

    A Good Thing Not to Do

    The announcement in February 1997 that British scientists had cloned a sheep turned the medical world upside down, Ian Wilmut and his colleagues had taken cells from an adult sheep's udder and removed the nucleus from each.
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  • The Pleasurable Science
    June 1998

    The Pleasurable Science

    Is it a law of physics, or of human nature, that frequently dooms genius to obscurity during its lifetime? While every nonentity has his 15 minutes of fame, anything more enduring seems governed by a simple principle: death precedes recognition.
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  • Paleo Prophets
    June 1998

    Paleo Prophets

    The 12 Southerners who contributed to I'll Take My Stand (1930) must have been a terrible failure, for the South as well as the rest of the nation ignored their warnings and injunctions.
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  • A Hothouse of Goofiness: The American Book Industry
    May 1998

    A Hothouse of Goofiness: The American Book Industry

    The renowned American jazzman Charlie Parker, introduced to Jean-Paul Sartre in a Paris club during the 1949 jazz festival, reportedly said, "I'm very glad to have met you, Mr. Sartre. I like your playing very much."
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  • Dial M for Murdoch
    May 1998

    Dial M for Murdoch

    Publishers and writers are inveterate enemies. It is a combat decreed by nature, like the eternal war between dogs and cats, oil and vinegar, teenage girls and their mothers.
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  • Maxwell Perkins Is Dead: The Decline of Commercial Publishing
    May 1998

    Maxwell Perkins Is Dead: The Decline of Commercial Publishing

    In an industry that trades on rumors of disaster, the tales flying around New York (which I use here as a synecdoche for major publishing houses anywhere) for the past several years are horrendous.
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  • Reading and Weeping
    May 1998

    Reading and Weeping

    Tony Outhwaite's article pretty much says it all, a whole lot of it anyway, about the present state of American publishing. And he's not only right on the money, he's seriously funny, which is a pleasure for the reader and a problem for the...
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  • God and Mammon in Christian Publishing
    May 1998

    God and Mammon in Christian Publishing

    That one can find Christian bookstores in nearly every shopping mall is doubtless a good sign. While our intellectual and cultural establishments refuse to factor God into their equations, there is an alternative network of publishing houses and...
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  • The Unscholarly World of Scholarly Publishing
    May 1998

    The Unscholarly World of Scholarly Publishing

    The days, golden for a certain breed of academic, are long past when university presses served as printers for on-campus scholars—who would, the legend has it, drop off a manuscript on some abstruse subject and return some months later to pick up...
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  • Over My Dead Body
    May 1998

    Over My Dead Body

    These two volumes of crime novels, bound and printed as classics, challenge our notion of the American canon. Or perhaps they simply remind us of what we were actually reading when we were supposed to be reading something else.
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  • Shifting Sands
    April 1998

    Shifting Sands

    The grand theme of P.D. James's work is man and his overwhelming sense of rootlessness, anxiety, and guilt in the knowledge of a crime unknown and a punishment outwardly denied in the post-Christian era, though inwardly anticipated.
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  • The Last Gentlemen
    April 1998

    The Last Gentlemen

    Walker Percy was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 7, 1916, the eldest son of a prosperous lawyer and a Georgia socialite. In addition to patrician lineage, Percy enjoyed a birthright of wealth and privilege.
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  • A Future for Critical Theory?
    March 1998

    A Future for Critical Theory?

    A questionnaire about future needs recently sent to a department of literature provoked at least one interesting reply: "We do not need a new post in Critical Theory. Theory is Old Hat."
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  • A Picturesque, Unprofitable Craft
    December 1997

    A Picturesque, Unprofitable Craft

    If poetry once seemed central to civilization, it has now gone the way of opera and ballet, becoming the property of an insular subculture.
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  • A Life in Themes
    December 1997

    A Life in Themes

    By any assessment, W.B. Yeats was an extraordinary man who led a more active and varied life than most poets.
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  • Playback
    November 1997

    Playback

    The recent death of Robert Mitchum reminds us not only of his appearance in one of the best film noirs. Out of the Past, but of his impersonation of the detective Philip Marlowe in the remake of Farewell, My Lovely and The Big...
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  • Robert Penn Warren Remembered
    November 1997

    Robert Penn Warren Remembered

    Reading Joseph Blotner's biography revives my memories of Robert Penn Warren. I was summoned to his rooms at Silliman College on September 5, 1969. I was a freckled, red-haired 18-year-old in whom he may have seen an apparition from his past.
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  • Belated Bloomsday
    November 1997

    Belated Bloomsday

    June 16 is Bloomsday, named after the character of Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses. Joyce's huge book takes place all on that long June day in 1904—250,000 words long, that is. We are told that Ulysses is one of the most important books of...
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  • The Black Nationalism of George S. Schuyler
    November 1997

    The Black Nationalism of George S. Schuyler

    Decisions, decisions. Such is the life of a black man in America today. Whether to be a black nationalist, a black Muslim, an Afrocentrist, or simply a color-blind Christian—a.k.a. an "Oreo," a traitor to the black race. Such choices are not new;...
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  • The Education of Everyman
    September 1997

    The Education of Everyman

    Classical professors looked forward with a mixture of eagerness and anxiety to the recent $40 million version of the Odyssey on NBC. Would the production reveal Homer, or would the Hollywoodification of his poem so distort the plot that we would...
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  • A Meeting of Equals
    August 1997

    A Meeting of Equals

    A poet's critical prose holds interest for many people. Scholars examine it for clarifications or contradictions of the poet's verse, admiring readers for echoes of the language that captivated them in the poetry, to which students and new...
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  • A Bard, By Any Other Name . . .
    August 1997

    A Bard, By Any Other Name . . .

    Story-telling is a feature of all societies. If the world is to make sense, if we are to live together in families, cities, nations, if we are to do our daily work, if life is to be livable at all, we must tell each other stories.
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  • Science Fiction, R.I.P.
    May 1997

    Science Fiction, R.I.P.

    To register the obituary long after the fact: science fiction is dead. Aficionados of the genre who acquired their taste for it in the 1950's and 60's probably already know this. What they might not know is that the death of science fiction has...
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  • Our Phildickian World
    May 1997

    Our Phildickian World

    Those of us who spent the 1980's trying to explain our affection for this pulp writer no one else had heard of, this author of surreal science fictions and bleak realistic novels, have watched both pop culture and the academy discover and embrace...
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  • Us vs. Them
    May 1997

    Us vs. Them

    They live in the town, but they have no control over it. For three years, their lives have been at the mercy of shadowy aliens who have slowly destroyed the community, forcing its citizens to work for their enrichment. Parents fear that their...
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  • August Derleth and Arkham House
    May 1997

    August Derleth and Arkham House

    August Derleth was one of the principal forces that established science fiction as a legitimate literary genre. He was a product of the "pulp" era, who founded a unique publishing company in 1939 called Arkham House.
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  • At the Heart of Darkness
    May 1997

    At the Heart of Darkness

    S.T. Joshi begins his mammoth biographical study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft by quoting his subject's reaction to a suggestion from a fan that he write his autobiography.
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  • Bookman's Holiday
    May 1997

    Bookman's Holiday

    Saint Ambrose, the reputed author of the Athanasian Creed, did not move his lips when he read. Neither did Ambrose's pupil and colleague Saint Augustine.
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  • John O'Hara and American Conservatism
    February 1997

    John O'Hara and American Conservatism

    I have more than a suspicion that John O'Hara's novels and stories will persist, if only because they have something to say about the commedia that is life and death, and his record of what part of America was like in the 20th century, even after...
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  • George Gissing in Rome
    February 1997

    George Gissing in Rome

    The Greek and Roman classics had a great influence on George Gissing, not least because the literature and history of antiquity provided him with a kind of refuge from the grim realities of the modern industrial and commercial world.
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  • Invisible but Present
    September 1996

    Invisible but Present

    I could not adequately acknowledge the greatest poet of the 20th century. An attempt to do so would quickly slip into banality. Instead, let me tell you about my encounters with T.S. Eliot.
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  • The Portable Shakespeare
    September 1996

    The Portable Shakespeare

    Nothing new here, really. Nothing that hasn't been hashed and rehashed by my betters, the true scholars and critics whose faithful quest for knowledge has sometimes ended in earned wisdom for all of us.
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  • Hard Lives, Hard Times
    September 1996

    Hard Lives, Hard Times

    The life of country people, the Kentucky poet-farmer Wendell Berry has observed, is marked by a surprising complexity. To be successful it requires deep knowledge of the land, of the seasons in their time, of plants and animals.
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  • New Criticism, Old Values
    September 1996

    New Criticism, Old Values

    It was in 1942 that John Crowe Ransom coined the phrase "The New Criticism" by publishing a book under that title, a book about the most respected literary critics of the first half of the century, notably T.S. Eliot, LA. Richards, William...
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  • Battles of the Books
    September 1996

    Battles of the Books

    Ours is not the first age to have experienced a struggle for curriculum. On the contrary. There has never been a time in the past 150 years when the progressives have not been chipping away and undermining what had been a coherent classical...
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  • The Unbanable Book
    September 1996

    The Unbanable Book

    A recent full-page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune, which no longer calls itself "The World's Greatest Newspaper," listed four documents that supposedly are foundational: the Magna Carta, the Treaty of Versailles, the Declaration of...
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  • Indispensable Petrarch
    September 1996

    Indispensable Petrarch

    By far the greater part of the Canzoniere, however, is devoted to his unconsummated love for Laura. But for Petrarch, love was closer to Christian cartias than to sexual desire, and even before her death his love poems take on an increasingly...
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  • It^s All Too Beautiful
    August 1996

    It^s All Too Beautiful

    Lock up your daughters, draw the blinds, and check your house for bugs and hidden cameras. George Garrett has put on his cap and bells again, and every page of his new book constitutes a thought crime against the stupid hypocrisies on which the...
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  • The Late Unpleasantness
    August 1996

    The Late Unpleasantness

    There is nothing so painfully ironic as a war between countrymen. So when nurse Kate Cumming speaks bitterly in her 1864 diary of "our kind northern friends, who love us so dearly that they will have us unite with them, whether we will or no" it...
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  • The Language of Literature
    July 1996

    The Language of Literature

    That Johnson is among the greatest poets to write in English, no one would maintain; that he is among the wisest, no sensible reader would deny.
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  • Conrad Aiken
    July 1996

    Conrad Aiken

    I was to meet Cap Pearce at his office at 12:30, for discussion of a book contract and for one of our lunches at a small Italian restaurant in the East Thirties where the veal scallopini was well pounded and the wine muscular.
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  • Christopher Hitchens &amp; <em>Vanity Fair</em>

    Christopher Hitchens & Vanity Fair

    Christopher Hitchens and Vanity Fair get the Connie Chung Award for May. "Thanks for your help," read the letter inserted in my complimentary copy of the May issue of Vanity Fair. It seemed like a polite gesture, a pat on the head for sharing my...
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  • Swimming Against the Tide
    May 1996

    Swimming Against the Tide

    Mario Vargas Llosa, the winner of the 1991 T.S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing, has fashioned a provocative symmetry in this memoir. He writes of growing up in Peru and Bolivia, bringing his life up to the point where he leaves for Europe at...
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  • Shakespeare, A Closet Catholic?
    May 1996

    Shakespeare, A Closet Catholic?

    For the ongoing revolution against traditional authority it is often difficult to know whom to blame the most, but certainly the academic community's skepticism, suspicion, and mockery of traditional values is one cause.
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  • The Long Hello
    March 1996

    The Long Hello

    Though Raymond Chandler himself saw to it that he exploited his power in the movies and on radio and television, he knew very well that his appeal rested on a literary achievement.
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  • The Mad Farmer
    February 1996

    The Mad Farmer

    In his latest book, Berry proves that the tradition, though too often ignored today, is alive and well. He has been farming and writing in his native Henry County, Kentucky, for 30 years now.
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  • Brief Mentions
    February 1996

    Brief Mentions

    W.H. Auden is famous for poems about totalitarian evil, but he also wrote frivolous verse when in the mood. In assembling As I Walked Out One Evening, Edward Mendelson, the executor of Auden's estate, sifted through the vast corpus of his work,...
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  • Kiddy Lit for the 90's
    January 1996

    Kiddy Lit for the 90's

    Children's books used to relate tales of heroes and villains. They presented a Manichaean world in which good triumphed over evil. Children might be scared, but they were assured that the forces of light could easily be distinguished from the...
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  • The End of Time
    December 1995

    The End of Time

    In his last novel, In the Tennessee Country, published the summer before Peter Taylor's death on November 2, 1994, a man, the narrator's cousin, "chucks" his family, his home, and his identity, and disappears.
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  • The Edinburgh Brute
    November 1995

    The Edinburgh Brute

    It was the spring of 1893, and Arthur Conan Doyle was plotting murder. "I am in the middle of the last Holmes story," Doyle wrote to his mother, "after which the gentleman vanishes, never to return.
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  • Mirror & Labyrinth
    November 1995

    Mirror & Labyrinth

    The topic of Poe and Borges is as compelling as it is restricted, and Professor Irwin has made sure we understand that what is narrow may also be deep. Indeed, he peers through an aperture which in his perspective opens to take in a universe.
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  • Rising From the Dead
    November 1995

    Rising From the Dead

    All three of these books are, each in its own way, dedicated to the proposition that the past is alive and deserves to be preserved and protected against the forces of barbaric ignorance and indifference.
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  • Role Models and Poetry
    September 1995

    Role Models and Poetry

    Societies, as much as individuals, need role models. For good and for ill, our cultural tradition has been influenced by the figures of Achilles and Odysseus, placed at the center of our moral imagination by Homer almost three millennia ago.
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  • Babylon Revisited
    September 1995

    Babylon Revisited

    This snowball of a book, gathering mass as it accelerates, is studded with accretions and revisions. A work of cultural criticism rather than of mere literary or even social history, it seems to make its own rules as it goes.
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  • Murder in the Wasteland
    September 1995

    Murder in the Wasteland

    The mystery, like Greek tragedy, the plays of Shakespeare, or American Western films, is, paradoxically, freed by the very confines of its formula to explore the human condition.
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  • Homer Nods
    July 1995

    Homer Nods

    The author David Halberstam gave the principal address at the convocation opening Brown's 1994-95 academic year. Time was when only the president of the university spoke, but recent presidents have instituted the policy of having a distinguished...
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  • The Country Writer
    June 1995

    The Country Writer

    I am as grateful for this award as I am surprised by it, and I certainly did not see it coming. Obviously, it cannot be easy to feel worthy of an award bearing the name of T.S. Eliot, and so probably I ought to say that I am grateful, but...
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  • Literature Among the Ruins
    June 1995

    Literature Among the Ruins

    In his life Ford seems to have known nearly every writer worth knowing. Through his grandfather, the painter Madox Brown, and his uncle William Rossetti, he was connected to the Pre-Raphaelites.
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  • For Love of the Muse
    June 1995

    For Love of the Muse

    A British poet of Irish descent, Peter Russell was born in Bristol, England, in 1921, and by age three—"before I knew my alphabet"—had already decided that he wanted to be a poet "or nothing."
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  • A Happy Man in a Terrible Century
    June 1995

    A Happy Man in a Terrible Century

    The claim to objectivity on the part of reviewers is, if not ill informed, precious. I make no claim to offer the one true reading of Edward O. Wilson's autobiography. However, by my scheme of reckoning, he is one of the cultural giants of the...
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  • Beyond Trash
    June 1995

    Beyond Trash

    In the middle part of this century one of the main staples of the Anglo- American reading public was the historical novel, or romance. Such "swashbucklers" were not great literature, but they had their virtues.
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  • Cleaning Our Stables
    June 1995

    Cleaning Our Stables

    In the mindless babble that passes for political debate in the United States, nothing means what it appears to mean, particularly those key words "liberal" and "conservative." For political purposes the latter seems to have demonized the former....
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  • Once Upon a Time in America
    June 1995

    Once Upon a Time in America

    One of the strangest rituals in the United States Senate is the annual reading of President Washington's Farewell Address. The chore of recitation usually falls to a freshman nonentity eager to curry favor by performing what is regarded as a...
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  • Erato in the Throes
    June 1995

    Erato in the Throes

    The poet has been rejected by our civilization, because that civilization is no longer at ease with itself and spends its time rubbing camphor on a rheumy chest, while it contemplates its navel.
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  • Frederick Turner and the Rebirth of Literature
    June 1995

    Frederick Turner and the Rebirth of Literature

    The breach that opened between the serious and popular arts during the early years of this century has so widened over subsequent decades that the current "postmodern" era is characterized by a kind of cultural schizophrenia.
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  • The Gay Nihilism of Umberto Eco
    June 1995

    The Gay Nihilism of Umberto Eco

    Simone Weil wrote, with respect to literature, that "nothing is more beautiful, wonderful, ever new, ever more surprising, more sweetly and lastingly intoxicating than the good. Nothing is more arid, sad, monotonous and cranky than the had.
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  • Johnson in His Time
    May 1995

    Johnson in His Time

    Every well-read person used to know Johnson's Lives of the Poets, and, knowing that collection, knew who Richard Savage was—or at least knew who Richard Savage told people he was.
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  • Brief Mentions
    May 1995

    Brief Mentions

    Romano Guardini (1885-1968), a Roman Catholic priest and professor of Christian philosophy at the universities of Breslau, Berlin, Tubingen, and Munich, was a year old when he emigrated with his parents to Germany from his native Italy.
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  • Lucky Him
    April 1995

    Lucky Him

    A wit and a fussbudget as well as a scholar, Paul Fussell is one of the best essayists and observers around. For personal as well as literary reasons, there is no one better qualified to undertake a study of the writings of Sir Kingsley Amis.
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  • All Post-Keynesians Now
    March 1995

    All Post-Keynesians Now

    For connoisseurs of biography, Robert Skidelsky's projected three-volume work, John Maynard Keynes, will rank with the best of the genre. The first volume appeared over a decade ago under the subtitle Hopes Betrayed. The second volume, under...
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  • Of Time and the River
    March 1995

    Of Time and the River

    It is fitting that two of these outstanding volumes of poetry (Taylor's and Weider's) gather work from over 20 years of the poets' respective careers; fitting because all three collections exhibit a concern for the passage of time, both its...
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  • Remembering Cleanth Brooks
    February 1995

    Remembering Cleanth Brooks

    Cleanth Brooks, one of the giants of literary criticism, died last May 10. He was 87 years old. He taught thousands of us how to read a poem or a story. Some he taught over a half-century by way of the classroom, some in his numerous public...
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  • Lies, Damn Lies, and Absurdities
    February 1995

    Lies, Damn Lies, and Absurdities

    Despite its optimistic title, Recovering American Literature is really about the severity of illness, the magnitude of loss. In a book weighted with evidence, Peter Shaw shows literature has suffered by subverting art to politics.
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  • A Lot of Nerve
    January 1995

    A Lot of Nerve

    It was an editor's dream: poems of this caliber, unsolicited and unexpected, in my post office box. The verse was assertive, muscular, practiced but never unsurprising. Who was this man?
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  • Dreams of Gold
    January 1995

    Dreams of Gold

    If California were to secede from the United States and establish itself, as its first Anglo settlers once intended, as an independent republic, it would instantly emerge as one of the world's richest nations.
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  • Negative Capability
    December 1994

    Negative Capability

    So many things have been said in praise of McCarthy's work that it is hard not to sound like an echo. Inevitably, the reviewer notes the energy and grace of his style, and there is no gainsaying that.
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  • Reimagining a River
    November 1994

    Reimagining a River

    In 1944, a party of German prisoners-of-war escaped from a camp in Phoenix, armed with old maps and with the intention of stealing a boat and sailing to Mexico. When they saw the "pitiful trickle" that is the modern Gila, they began to hike...
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  • Technovandals and the Future of Libraries
    September 1994

    Technovandals and the Future of Libraries

    There are discussions at all levels of government about the future of libraries. The federal government is proceeding with plans for the I-WAY (otherwise known as the National Information Superhighway), blithely assuming that it will, at a time...
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  • Back to the Future
    September 1994

    Back to the Future

    Andrew Lytle, in his family memoir A Wake for the Living, compares the past to a foreign country. "If we dismiss the past as dead," he writes, "and not as a country of the living which our eyes are unable to see, as we cannot see a foreign...
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  • Theme From 'A Summer Place'
    September 1994

    Theme From 'A Summer Place'

    The products of mass culture are not automatically to be sneered at, first because of their massive presence and second because sometimes they have a certain merit or are somehow amusing.
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  • All Such Filthy Cheats
    September 1994

    All Such Filthy Cheats

    When Vice Admiral Bobby Ray Inman announced on January 18 his decision not to pursue confirmation as Secretary of Defense, he repeated Robert Massie's old charge that William Safire is a plagiarist, saying this "does not, in my judgment, put...
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  • Still Storied
    August 1994

    Still Storied

    So much success and so much variety are self-recommending to any reader hungry for the good stuff; and I have cited only a few of many pieces.
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  • Border Crossings
    July 1994

    Border Crossings

    It is by now a truism to say that the border between the United States and Mexico encompasses a third nation, one that shares in both societies but that forms its own culture.
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  • The Weremother: A Short Story
    June 1994

    The Weremother: A Short Story

    Often in that period in her life, when she least expected it, she would feel the change creeping over her. It would start in the middle of an intense conversation with her younger son or with her daughter, behind whose newly finished face she saw...
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  • A Documented Life
    June 1994

    A Documented Life

    Muriel Spark (1992 winner of the Ingersoll Foundation's T.S. Eliot Award) is a prolific writer with some 19 novels to her credit as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, criticism, and biography. Yet she was a surprisingly late starter.
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  • Andrew Lytle and the Cultivation of American Letters
    May 1994

    Andrew Lytle and the Cultivation of American Letters

    The name of Andrew Lytle should be better known than it is: he has been a distinguished novelist and author of some widely anthologized short stories; an essayist, historian, and memoirist; an editor of the Sewanee Review for many years; and a...
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  • Suspect Company
    May 1994

    Suspect Company

    The editors of The Oxford Companion to the Bible describe their work as "an authoritative reference for key persons, places, events, concepts, institutions, and realities of biblical times" and as a guide to the current "interpretation of these...
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  • Mountain Musings
    May 1994

    Mountain Musings

    The Ozark Mountains make up an area that American literature has largely passed by, leaving it the province of folklore and song, of homespun stories that seldom make their way to the lowlands. Ken Carey's fine new book about the region, Flat...
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  • Writer and Community
    May 1994

    Writer and Community

    Most writers feel honored by literary prizes—in the way I feel so honored by the award of the T.S. Eliot prize—whether they accept them or not. At the same time, many writers share the wish that their vocation could be carried on anonymously.
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  • Degrade and Fall
    April 1994

    Degrade and Fall

    I was reading Arthur Goldhammer's translation of Maurice Lever's Sade as the Senator Packwood scandal raged on, and although I wouldn't want to draw any unwarranted comparisons between the two bonhommes, the parallels between Ancien Régime France...
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  • Tiger, Tigre: The Perils of Translation
    April 1994

    Tiger, Tigre: The Perils of Translation

    In November 1875, in a gas-lit flat over a rain-soaked street in Tours, a law student sat together with a young Portuguese widow. They were rifling through her letters. She had been a minor actress in Bordeaux and had played at the Haymarket...
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  • Gathering the Desert
    April 1994

    Gathering the Desert

    It is ironic that the modern environmentalist movement was founded bv men with whom most modern environmentalists would have nothing to do today: game hunters, many so avid for the chase that they would spend fortunes to collect antlers and skins...
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  • The 40th Anniversary of Fahrenheit 451
    April 1994

    The 40th Anniversary of Fahrenheit 451

    Last year was the 40th anniversary of the publication of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's gripping futuristic novel about a dumbed-down American society-of-the-spectacle that pays its "firemen" to burn books.
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  • Brief Mentions
    April 1994

    Brief Mentions

    The perfect gift for the armchair warrior. The Patton Mind traces the intellectual development of a "profane man of action" who, Roger Nye notes, "left behind the most complete record of exhaustive professional study of any World War II...
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  • Anatomy of an Inaugural Poem
    April 1994

    Anatomy of an Inaugural Poem

    Evidence that Maya Angelou may have borrowed from another poem for the one she delivered at Bill Clinton's inauguration was reported in this magazine last December. The White House, having seen the December Chronicles and the subsequent news...
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  • Politically Correct Nursery Rhymes
    March 1994

    Politically Correct Nursery Rhymes

    Political correctness may have started in the universities, but it has begun to trickle down into other areas of American culture. I recently discovered a new series of biographies for children that includes lives not only of George Washington...
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  • Pluggers
    February 1994

    Pluggers

    There is a cartoon that I see from time to time called "Pluggers," a one-panel affair offering variations on a single theme: "You're a plugger if. . . . "
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  • Short Constructions
    February 1994

    Short Constructions

    You don't have to read far into the story collection Thief of Lives before John Cheever's name comes to mind, but after so many years of writing, Kit Reed must be used to that comparison.
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  • He Loved New York
    February 1994

    He Loved New York

    Long regarded by critics, fans, and various of his colleagues at the New Yorker as America's finest literary journalist, 85-year-old Joseph Mitchell had not, until recently, published a word since 1965, and people wondered what he was doing in...
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  • There Are Left the Mountains
    December 1993

    There Are Left the Mountains

    Archibald MacLeish—"macarchibald maclapdog macleish," e.e. cummings dubbed him—wondered, from his sinecure as Librarian of Congress in 1940, why "the writers of our generation in America" had such a provincial indifference to the war in Europe.
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  • Louis Bromfield's America
    December 1993

    Louis Bromfield's America

    Malabar Farm drew a large crowd the summer day I was there, mostly busloads of the elderly on excursion from the "senior centers" of Ohio. They came to see Louis Bromfield's legacy—the once famous agricultural experiment that is now a state park.
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  • Maya Angelou's Inaugural Poem: Plagiarized or Inspired?
    December 1993

    Maya Angelou's Inaugural Poem: Plagiarized or Inspired?

    When Bill Clinton picked writer Maya Angelou to create and read a poem at his swearing-in ceremony, he was given kudos by the media and academia for the "diversity" and brilliance of his selection.
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  • The Survival of the Fattest
    December 1993

    The Survival of the Fattest

    Late one summer afternoon, tired and dirty after four days' camping and a 21-mile ride out of the Wind River Mountains over rough granite trails, 1 swung off the horse and opened the registry book that the National Forest Service places at the...
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  • Lonesome No More
    December 1993

    Lonesome No More

    All literary genres have their loyalists, but few have more devoted—and querulous—readers than the Western. So when in the mid-1980's rumors began to circulate that Larry McMurtry, hitherto known for his angst-ridden tales of modern Texas, was at...
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  • In the Fullness of Time
    December 1993

    In the Fullness of Time

    Perhaps the best way to understand and appreciate Joseph Pappin's unique achievement is to consider this fine book in the light of previous scholarship that attempts to ascertain the religious and moral sources and foundations of Edmund Burke's...
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  • Exclusive: Writer's Mags Exposed
    November 1993

    Exclusive: Writer's Mags Exposed

    Who's responsible for all those "Writer's magazines" clogging the newsstands of Harvard Square? The unsuspecting peruser who comes to these periodicals seeking professional advice will be disappointed to find that they read like a cross between...
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  • The Self-Same Beast
    November 1993

    The Self-Same Beast

    The collapse of communist systems has not eliminated the need for a better understanding of the impact they had and how and why they persisted.
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  • The Shock of Recognition
    November 1993

    The Shock of Recognition

    The academic presses are often the source of the most exciting books, though these volumes too often escape the notice of the larger public.
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  • The American Exception
    October 1993

    The American Exception

    A favorite exhortation of those seeking to further restrict or remove the private possession of firearms in the United States is to "look at other countries," where lower murder rates are supposed to be a result of gun control laws.
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  • Beautiful Excess
    October 1993

    Beautiful Excess

    The Hard to Catch Mercy, William Baldwin's entrancing first novel, is bound to remind some readers of Mark Twain, especially of some of the bleaker pages of moral fables like The Mysterious Stranger and The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.
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  • Pro Patria
    October 1993

    Pro Patria

    The recent passing of Mel Bradford has cast a chastening light upon this latest of his collections. Who had wished to be reminded of the author's indispensability in this or indeed any other way?
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  • Lizzie Borden's Mama Was No Writer
    September 1993

    Lizzie Borden's Mama Was No Writer

    The line between the Old America and the New is closer than most of us think. A single generation separates not only the Western pioneer from the St. Louis suburbanite, it separates the New Woman from the Old.
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  • Thy Will Be Done
    September 1993

    Thy Will Be Done

    P.D. James has attracted notice for how well she is able, within the confines of her mystery novels, to write about contemporary British society.
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  • Goodbye, Columbus
    August 1993

    Goodbye, Columbus

    Gerald Vizenor intends in his fictions to pay due homage to Coyote, the American Indian trickster figure, through twist-and-turn narrative high jinks.
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  • So Late the Day
    August 1993

    So Late the Day

    Poetry, short story, novel, drama, screenplay, criticism, the teaching of writing: George Garrett has excelled across the entire spectrum of literary art. I can call to mind no other contemporary American writer who approaches this feat, though...
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  • The State of the Art
    August 1993

    The State of the Art

    This volume of short stories seems to me to represent, as a book, two distinct levels of meaning. The first and most insistent of these levels is of course as a diverse gathering of brilliant fictions, each one a self-justifying experience.
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  • Women and Biographers First!
    July 1993

    Women and Biographers First!

    To be really successful a modern writer must reach and hold a huge audience, and there seems to be essentially two ways of doing it: the journeyman (or tradesman-like) and the heroic-histrionic.
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  • The Placed Person
    July 1993

    The Placed Person

    For about 30 years Wendell Berry has been writing fiction, poetry, and essays motivated by what he identifies as "a desire to make myself responsibly at home in this world and in my native and chosen place."
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  • Airs, Waters, Places
    July 1993

    Airs, Waters, Places

    I might say at the onset that I am usually not a big fan of anthologies, though I have edited one; most end up unwieldy grab bags of vaguely related material.
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  • The End of Something
    May 1993

    The End of Something

    Hemingway continues to fascinate. The legendary life and heroic exploits of the man who was so admired, honored, and imitated are now wellknown.
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  • Men at War
    May 1993

    Men at War

    Southerners have a special feeling for the pathos of history. They know what it is like to have a lost cause, a history that might be gone with the wind but is still resonant and noble for all that.
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  • L'Etranger Chez Lui
    April 1993

    L'Etranger Chez Lui

    I suppose that after William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy (1916-1990) has been for the last three decades the most widely read of Southern writers.
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  • Visible Poets
    April 1993

    Visible Poets

    Many readers will fondly recall the earlier incarnation of Their Ancient Glittering Eyes, published in 1978 as Remembering Poets. That book contained Donald Hall's reports of his close encounters with four giants of modernism—Robert Frost, Dylan...
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  • A Piece of the Action
    April 1993

    A Piece of the Action

    More than 20 years of active critical engagement since then have allowed Crews the chance to change his mind about some things, to modify some earlier judgments, and, at the very least, to admit to the need for a much more expanded and...
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  • Gerald Who?
    April 1993

    Gerald Who?

    Snaking out from the Middle Atlantic states is a long distinguished line of political and literary Copperheads: Millard Fillmore, Horatio Seymour, Harold Frederic, Edmund Wilson, and the Pennsylvania duo of James Buchanan and John Updike.
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  • Truth in Self-Advertisement
    April 1993

    Truth in Self-Advertisement

    Hunter S. Thompson does not suffer fools gladly. For that matter, he seems to suffer no one at all, gladly or not. A survivor of the 1960's, he has deemed his contemporaries "a whole subculture of frightened illiterates" and those younger than...
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  • The Quest for Bijou O'Conor
    April 1993

    The Quest for Bijou O'Conor

    In 1975 an eccentric old lady who lived near Brighton, England, with a Pekinese gave a taped interview about her affair in 1930 with Scott Fitzgerald.
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  • Rehabilitating Poe
    March 1993

    Rehabilitating Poe

    Edgar Allan Poe was the finest American writer to be transformed into a "personality" in his own lifetime and, like François Villon, to be known less for his work than for his person.
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  • The Right Fork
    March 1993

    The Right Fork

    "I ask myself again why anyone would find interest in the private dimensions of my own history," muses Nobel laureate economist James M. Buchanan in his new collection of personal and intellectual autobiographical essays.
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  • Versailles-on-Hudson
    March 1993

    Versailles-on-Hudson

    A critic who tries to stay abreast of the literature of his time, in any time, deserves respect as well as sympathy from less heroic readers content to pick and choose from among the deluge of titles that sends one literary year after the next...
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  • The Pilgrims' Progress
    March 1993

    The Pilgrims' Progress

    If there is one constant at yard sales, estate auctions, and second-hand bookstores in this state, it is the presence of old books, Bibles, classics, and diverse texts that once made splashes before sinking into obscurity.
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  • Second Childhoods
    January 1993

    Second Childhoods

    From its beginnings, science fiction (bastard offspring of fantasy) has exerted a vulgar appeal. Some of its proponents have never shied away from this and, if anything, have celebrated the intelligent child's outlook, as witness the career of...
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  • Satyr and Satire
    January 1993

    Satyr and Satire

    First published twenty years ago. The Satyr is the fourth of DeMaria's 14 novels and stands apart from his other works for its sheer playfulness, its experimental nature, and its brevity.
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  • Clap & Trap
    December 1992

    Clap & Trap

    I had heard about, but not read, "The End of History?" Francis Fukuyama's star-burst essay published in 1989; but I felt a twinge of sympathy for him as his critics chortled and pointed at history rumbling anew: people dancing atop the Berlin...
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  • A New Venture
    December 1992

    A New Venture

    The Southern Classics Series is a new venture of J.S. Sanders and Company. John Stoll Sanders and his series editor M.E. Bradford are systematically resurrecting worthy titles that have disappeared from the pages of Books In Print. In so doing,...
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  • At Arm's Length
    December 1992

    At Arm's Length

    The disgruntled professor who equates academic integrity with paucity of book sales and who is thereby convinced that the masses who follow the writings of C.S. Lewis must be a cult of sorts, will take a perverse delight in the publication of his...
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  • New Writing From the Northwest
    December 1992

    New Writing From the Northwest

    The Pacific Northwest of the United States, embracing Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and western Montana, has long been a major source of agricultural and mineral wealth. For generations it has also served as a center for the fine arts, but only...
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  • Appalled by History
    November 1992

    Appalled by History

    For us to love our country, Burke somewhere wrote, our country must be beautiful. The sheer aesthetic ugliness of modern capitalistic civilization has been as much a reason for the revulsion against it on the part of poets, artists, and social...
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  • Passionate and Incorruptible
    November 1992

    Passionate and Incorruptible

    This beautiful little book—one that does much credit to its publisher— appears as a blessing amid the clutter and noise and ugliness that characterize the publishing industry as well as literary discourse today.
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  • A Ride Into the Sunset
    November 1992

    A Ride Into the Sunset

    At the age of 83, Wallace Stegner is the éminence grise of Western American literature, a man responsible for shaping the writing not only of the region but also that of points eastward, thanks to the scores of graduates from the Stanford writing...
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  • Limits to Litigation
    November 1992

    Limits to Litigation

    Gerald N. Rosenberg, an assistant professor of political science and an instructor in law at the University of Chicago, has some simple advice for activists who think a United States Supreme Court ruling is an end-all: not only are you wrong, but...
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  • Bambino and Minotaur
    October 1992

    Bambino and Minotaur

    The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once mentioned the self-punishing limitations of his projected but never written autobiography: "I cannot write my biography on a higher plane than I exist on.
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  • Gift: The Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte
    October 1992

    Gift: The Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte

    Not merely a strange place, but the home of strangeness, / the land stretching away west to vertiginous / spaces beyond the imagination. / Philadelphia first, / then New York, where Nancy is living.
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  • Eugenio Corti
    October 1992

    Eugenio Corti

    The strength of Corti's writing revealed in these diaries was an indication of his future literary fortunes. They offer, even to today's reader, vital matter for meditation.
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  • An Aura of Prophecy
    September 1992

    An Aura of Prophecy

    More often than not, historians of antebellum American politics lose their perspective, and perhaps their good sense, when they encounter John C. Calhoun.
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  • Trespass Against Us
    September 1992

    Trespass Against Us

    Larry Woiwode, the North Dakota novelist (I do not mean that in a diminishing way), has described his fiction as "a continuing spiritual exercise that any reader may join in on." His fifth novel, Indian Affairs, is a fitfully satisfying workout.
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  • Literature and the Curriculum
    September 1992

    Literature and the Curriculum

    The controversy over the humanities curricula is a struggle over definition, and what is at issue is not so much the nature or purposes of the American university as the identity of the American people.
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  • How to Write a Novel
    September 1992

    How to Write a Novel

    Cormac McCarthy is so fine a writer-for my money the best novelist in America today-that he and his work must be accepted pretty much on their own terms. Criticism therefore, in the case of Mr. McCarthy, is reducible largely to questions of taste.
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  • Politics in American Letters
    August 1992

    Politics in American Letters

    The following was presented in acceptance of the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, presented at Longwood College, Farmville, Virginia, September 20, 1991. The Dos Passos Prize is awarded to a writer in mid-career for a distinguished body of...
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  • Who Is Henry Galt? Ayn Rand and Plagiarism
    August 1992

    Who Is Henry Galt? Ayn Rand and Plagiarism

    Can it be that a fraud has been perpetrated on the readers and admirers of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand—a literary and intellectual swindle that veers perilously close to plagiarism?
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  • The Year in the Novel, 1991
    August 1992

    The Year in the Novel, 1991

    What we have here—not even the President has had the effrontery to deny it—is an intellectual recession. I cannot think of a year in which more; bad books received more serious attention.
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  • Wyndham Lewis and the Moronic Inferno
    August 1992

    Wyndham Lewis and the Moronic Inferno

    Looking back today at the achievements of the heroic modernists, we must do so with at least some degree of ambivalence. The presence of those colossi has receded with the passing of the years; and we no longer regard them as they themselves...
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  • New Poetry From Italy
    August 1992

    New Poetry From Italy

    Florence's La Nazione, a sober conservative daily with a national circulation and founded at the time of the American Civil War, stated on November 2, 1991, that more than 10 percent of Italians today are fully occupied in "organized crime" (not...
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  • I Love to Tell the Story
    August 1992

    I Love to Tell the Story

    What is art good for, anyway? The older critics used to declare that the functions of poetry were two; entertainment and instruction.
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  • Poetry That Matters
    July 1992

    Poetry That Matters

    In the May 1991 issue of the Atlantic poet and critic Dana Gioia asked "Can Poetry Matter?" Gioia, who has spent most of his working life outside of the academy, warns of a species in danger of extinction, the vanishing general audience for...
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  • Onan Agonistes
    July 1992

    Onan Agonistes

    I've been trying to figure out what somebody could do with the thirty bucks (plus tax) that they're asking for Harold Brodkey's word-processing product. My copy was no bargain for free.
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  • The Cultural Middleman
    June 1992

    The Cultural Middleman

    To start with, the process of Americanization began at birth. Within the space of one week at the Metropolitan Hospital, I started life as a Hebrew child, with the name Yitzhak-Isaac.
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  • A Myth Imagined
    June 1992

    A Myth Imagined

    How quickly living tradition turns into history. The Great War of 1914-18.has almost entirely receded from memory. Very few of that generation are alive to tell their stories, and as for their children, they have their own war, the Second World...
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  • A Writer for All Seasons
    June 1992

    A Writer for All Seasons

    E.B. White described Henry David Thoreau, that thorny individualist, as a regular hair shirt of a man; and no matter how much we may like the Thoreau of Walden and his other writing, few of us could bear having him as a neighbor.
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  • From a Front Box
    June 1992

    From a Front Box

    Only the most devoted students of Henry Adams are likely to have bought and read the six-volume Complete Letters that Harvard University Press produced between 1982 and 1988.
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  • Sheer Christianity
    May 1992

    Sheer Christianity

    For a long time after "modern" first came into the language, it was an innocuous little word, the simple opposite of "ancient," and insofar as it had connotations, they were not very good ones. Shakespeare always used it to mean "commonplace,"...
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  • Cutting the Golden Key
    May 1992

    Cutting the Golden Key

    Those who know anything of contemporary scholarship or the political philosophy of Edmund Burke know that Peter J. Stanlis clearly holds the title of "Dean of Burke Studies."
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  • Scribble, Scribble
    May 1992

    Scribble, Scribble

    Of the making of books there is no end, Ecclesiastes has it. Of the making of books about the making of books there is also a perennial flow.
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  • An Empirical Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    April 1992

    An Empirical Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Ever since Frederika MacDonald published her massive two-volume work, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: A New Study in Criticism (1905), scholars favorably disposed toward Rousseau have pursued the difficult task of rehabilitating him from the "audacious...
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  • Literature and Freedom
    April 1992

    Literature and Freedom

    Nothing has pushed forward cultural life as much as the invention of printing, nor has anything contributed more to its democratization. From Gutenberg's time until today, the book has been the best propeller and depository of knowledge, as well...
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  • Things as They Are
    April 1992

    Things as They Are

    Frank Kermode began his excellent review of this fat and feisty volume with a statement that is at once factual and wildly misleading: "Sir Victor Pritchett is a Victorian." To be sure, Pritchett was born in 1900, when the Good Queen still sat on...
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  • Who Is Sylvia? What Is She?
    March 1992

    Who Is Sylvia? What Is She?

    Unlike the situation of only a few decades ago, the position occupied today by women poets in American literary culture is so prominent, the range of their subjects and styles so wide, that it has become virtually impossible to make any...
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  • Howard Nemerov, R.I.P.

    Howard Nemerov, R.I.P.

    Howard Nemerov, one of our country's titans of literature, died last July. He published his first book shortly after Wodd War II, and during the next 44 years a stream of 26 books garnered for him the country's most prestigious awards.
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  • The Global Villager
    March 1992

    The Global Villager

    Terry Teachout was a clumsy, nearsighted teacher's pet who grew up in Sikeston, Missouri, population 17,431—"A Community That Works!" as its boosters trumpet.
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  • The Polymorph
    March 1992

    The Polymorph

    Over the last three decades Fred Chappell has been steadily accumulating both an enviable publishing record—he has some twenty novels and collections of poems and stories to his credit—and a well-deserved reputation as one of the South's foremost...
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  • The Siege of Baltimore
    February 1992

    The Siege of Baltimore

    It is 36 years since the gaseous incorporeal soul of Henry Louis Mencken, summoned before the throne of Him in Whom he for 76 years had expressed unbelief, presumably uttered the words the fleshly Mencken had rehearsed for such unlikely occasion.
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  • Truth in Empire
    February 1992

    Truth in Empire

    He arrived at the highest seat of power late in life, after a career that most considered inappropriate for a world leader. He consolidated his popularity by the successful invasion of a small island.
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  • Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest
    February 1992

    Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest

    BAD—as distinguished from merely bad, which has always been with us—is a (late) 20th-century phenomenon. "To achieve real BAD," writes Mr. Fussell, "you have to have the widest possible gap between what is said about a thing and what the thing...
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  • Miller's Tales
    February 1992

    Miller's Tales

    There are any number of nasty diseases afoot to remind us of the consequences of the love-without-care platitudes Henry Miller committed to print and history. Anyone who still adheres to these ideas clearly has not been keeping up with the...
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  • Hobson's Choices
    January 1992

    Hobson's Choices

    This slender volume—it embodies the 33 rd of the Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures—is most welcome. The topic is a matter of broad interest, and the author knows his stuff.
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  • Magna Mater, Full of Grace!
    January 1992

    Magna Mater, Full of Grace!

    I don't believe I realized, until I began reading up on the subject of Deep Ecology, how far the rot of despair and self-loathing has penetrated the Western world. Multiculturalism as an expression of the West's failure of nerve and of confidence...
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  • The Spirit of the Age
    January 1992

    The Spirit of the Age

    The Lewis Lapham story, as recounted in his earlier books, Fortune's Child and Money and Class in America, is that of a rich boy who, having been exposed as a reporter to the lot of the poor, renounces the "authority of wealth" and turns his...
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  • My Aunt & Unamuno
    January 1992

    My Aunt & Unamuno

    In the summer of 1929, my aunt Zarita Nahon, a philologist and teacher of languages, traveled from Biarritz to Hendaye, en route to Tangier to collect the medieval Spanish balladry, lost in Spain but still extant in the coastal cities of Morocco,...
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  • Something Amis
    December 1991

    Something Amis

    There is nothing else like the careening prose of Sir Kingsley Amis. Somehow his syntax, his diction, and his tone have a way of collapsing in sync, so that the reader is left lurching in an air pocket of laughter.
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  • The Craft of Flesh and Blood
    December 1991

    The Craft of Flesh and Blood

    The landscape of American fiction is a bleak and dreary place these days. It wends through the somber back lots and blue highways of rural America, tends toward the grimy streets of crumbling cities, populated by somewhat dim and desperate...
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  • Plundered Province: The American West as Literary Region
    November 1991

    Plundered Province: The American West as Literary Region

    "Let a philosophic observer commence a journey from the savages of the Rocky Mountains eastwardly towards our seacoast," Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1808, after he had learned of such matters from the reports of Lewis and Clark.
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  • Ishmael Among the Scriveners
    November 1991

    Ishmael Among the Scriveners

    The heroic age of modern poetry has been over for some time. The learned reactionaries who shaped it for two generations have all been dead for many years: Eliot (1965) and Pound (1972), Valéry (1945) and Claudel (1955), Ungaretti (1970) and...
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  • Big Little House in American Literature
    November 1991

    Big Little House in American Literature

    As even television audiences know, Laura Ingalls was born near the town of Pepin in west-central Wisconsin on February 7, 1867, second child and daughter of Charles Phillip and Caroline Quiner Ingalls.
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  • The Best of Our Time
    November 1991

    The Best of Our Time

    Elected Provost of King's College, Cambridge, in his 30's and subsequently Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, Lord Annan is a delightful person who has given us a delightful book of scintillating erudition that ranges far beyond the...
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  • Notes From a Writer of Trash
    November 1991

    Notes From a Writer of Trash

    The most important datum about Western fiction is that it is at the absolute bottom of the literary heap, somewhere below pornography. English professors would cavil at calling Westerns literature; they prefer to categorize Westerns as...
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  • A Literary Lion
    October 1991

    A Literary Lion

    Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) may well be the greatest unread writer America has ever produced, and certainly among the most influential.
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  • Psalms of Lament
    October 1991

    Psalms of Lament

    "The first thing to understand is that we are all practical atheists," Stanley Hauerwas once declared in a phone conversation. "So when we ask, 'Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?' what we really mean is, 'Why doesn't...
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  • Credulous Creatures
    September 1991

    Credulous Creatures

    Who now reads Alfred Kinsey? Almost no one. Who now remembers the great media event set off in 1948 by the publication of his "monumental" book of 804 pages on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male?
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  • The Christian Condition
    September 1991

    The Christian Condition

    This is, in fact, a book about two men, since, due to his strong personality and his close relationship to Georges Bernanos, the author plays an important part in it.
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  • Feminist Fatale
    September 1991

    Feminist Fatale

    Because I well remember reading some of the pieces Mary Gordon has assembled here, I had no reason to wish to reread them and no cause to want to read the ones I'd been lucky to miss the first time around. What I think about Mary Gordon's writing...
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  • The Private Worlds of the Mind
    September 1991

    The Private Worlds of the Mind

    On the morning of July 13, 1985, as I noted in my journal, I woke with an exceptionally clear recollection of a dream. In it my wife, Elizabeth, and I were in a high-ceilinged Victorian room with brown walls fashioned of rotating metallic discs.
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  • The Terror of the Obvious
    September 1991

    The Terror of the Obvious

    There is a painting on my wall that fascinates me. That is partly because it is beautiful, partly because of the story it tells. It is a large Dutch oil of 1658 by Hendrik van Vliet, better known for his church interiors, and it shows two men...
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  • Divided Loyalties
    August 1991

    Divided Loyalties

    Graham Greene died this year at 86, a ripe old age that was no small accomplishment for a man who at 19 played Russian roulette on the Berkhamsted common until he grew bored with even the possibility of his own death.
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  • Crusoe's Island
    August 1991

    Crusoe's Island

    Because William York Tindall's Forces in Modern British Literature extends itself only to 1946, and because there has been nothing as wide-ranging published since, I looked forward to George Watson's book repairing the omission.
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  • Motels and Filling Stations
    August 1991

    Motels and Filling Stations

    Rural and small town America is nearly dead. A distinctive culture rooted in family farms, weakening since 1900 and seriously diseased since 1960, emerged from the 1980's in a terminal state.
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  • Henry and Louise in the Lair de Clune
    August 1991

    Henry and Louise in the Lair de Clune

    The day after his 101st birthday, novelist Henry W. Clune escorted my wife and me to a fine local restaurant, where we dined in the Henry Clune Room. "It's a sin to live this long," he said as we drained our preprandial martinis.
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  • Adventure Fiction: The Machinery of the Dark
    August 1991

    Adventure Fiction: The Machinery of the Dark

    Adventure fiction is vigorously alive. Although virtually ignored by critics outside specialist newsletters, the genre has long been a dominant force both in bookstores and in Hollywood.
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  • Science Fictions
    August 1991

    Science Fictions

    While the genre of science fiction is hardly a century old, the roots of science fiction go deep into our history.
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  • Writing Offbeat Westerns
    August 1991

    Writing Offbeat Westerns

    The Western novel has always been hedged about with more conventions than any other category, with the possible exception of women's romances. I've often puzzled about why that is so, and even after years of thinking about it, I don't have any...
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  • I'm Nobody
    August 1991

    I'm Nobody

    In a prepublication interview, Leslie Fiedler remarked that he had wanted for years to use the title he has given to his latest book. In Fiedler on the Roof, however, the authorial persona resembles neither that of the effervescent Lev Teitlebaum...
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  • Partial Attraction
    August 1991

    Partial Attraction

    Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's career seems dedicated to the principle that radicals can be reasonable. The encouraging title of her latest book suggests that they may even be realistic.
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  • The Dethronement of Reason
    August 1991

    The Dethronement of Reason

    The other day, according to a New York Times editorial, Gorbachev and Yeltsin were trying to put together a "reform coalition that offers new hope for Soviet politics and policy." Such a coalition might counter "the threat of a hard-line...
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  • You Never Know What the Day Will Bring
    July 1991

    You Never Know What the Day Will Bring

    Charles Portis's fifth novel is of course a pleasure in its own right, but it's also an occasion—or should I say I am making it one—for reflecting on its author and his work, his style, his literary profile, the way he does things with words.
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  • Sequins, Studs, Beads, and All
    July 1991

    Sequins, Studs, Beads, and All

    Among those interesting but not exactly timeless questions Americans have the luxury of asking themselves, one of the most persistent is, "What was the meaning of Elvis?"
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  • On the Way Home
    July 1991

    On the Way Home

    The literary map of New Mexico includes the names of many wellknown writers. To the north, in the heavily publicized vicinity of Santa Fe and Taos, are Rudolfo Anaya, John Nichols, Haniel Long, Erna Fergusson, Mary Austin, Paul Horgan.
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  • One-Fifth Pink
    June 1991

    One-Fifth Pink

    Anticipating the latest Flashman novel is always a delight, and then there are the reviews to look forward to. The best of these are humorless, priggish, and hortatory, and read as if they had been composed by the writer with his left hand, while...
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  • The Romantic Streak
    June 1991

    The Romantic Streak

    A review of an early Blackford Oakes novel referred to Mr. Buckley's handling of a sex scene as the Hardy Boys go to a bordello. In this, the ninth book in the series, Buckley demonstrates a surer grasp, one might say, of such matters.
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  • Red Talk
    June 1991

    Red Talk

    Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) was, in the old expression, a man of parts, a complex intellectual who spent much of his adult life in northern universities, a Kentucky farm boy with the heart and soul of a Confederate gentleman.
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  • Fevered Dreams
    June 1991

    Fevered Dreams

    Collected here are 159 of E.B. White's short pieces written for the New Yorker. They show White at his best: as critic, essayist, humorist, and satirist.
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  • Critics at Work
    June 1991

    Critics at Work

    Just what is "Neoconservative Criticism"? What gives it any particular essence or distinguishes it from other brands being bartered in bookstores and newsstands throughout the Republic?
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  • Visible Saints
    May 1991

    Visible Saints

    There is no other American man of letters quite like Marion Montgomery. With the addition of each new book to the canon of works published by the Sage of Crawford, his achievement becomes the more astonishing; the range and depth of his thought,...
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  • Passion in Private
    May 1991

    Passion in Private

    Over the last ten years, A.N. Wilson has been compared to the great 20th-century English satirists: Waugh, Amis, and Barbara Pym. Now that he is in the process of writing a trilogy, it was inevitable that some critic would add to these the name...
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  • De Gustibus Semper Disputandum Est
    May 1991

    De Gustibus Semper Disputandum Est

    I suppose this book might be called a coffee-table book. It has the shape and the lavish illustration of that kind of thing. And I suppose that of its kind, this book isn't so bad, which is not to say that it's good.
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  • A True Vindication of Edmund Burke
    May 1991

    A True Vindication of Edmund Burke

    Mr. Conor Cruise O'Brien's "A Vindication of Edmund Burke," (National Review, December 17, 1990), contains many long established truths about Burke's politics—his consistency in principle, his remarkable insights and powers of prophesy, his...
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  • Love's Old Sweet Song
    April 1991

    Love's Old Sweet Song

    I once had the privilege of hearing Professor Polhemus deliver some of these pages as a lecture—the passage on the terrible end of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, which I have found as superb to read in 1990 as it was to hear in 1986.
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  • Anarchy and Family in the Southern Tradition
    March 1991

    Anarchy and Family in the Southern Tradition

    For this issue of Chronicles we have assembled the thing in and of itself, examples of Southern literature as it is here and now, a couple of appropriate poems and a work of fiction by one of the South's finest writers, together with some good...
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  • Time and the Tide in the Southern Short Story
    March 1991

    Time and the Tide in the Southern Short Story

    Perhaps since the War Between the States itself, and certainly since the literary Southern Renascence became conscious of itself in the 30's and 40's, educated Southerners, and Southern writers especially, have taken their sense of history as a...
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  • Wild Thing
    March 1991

    Wild Thing

    A new kind of animal stalks the land these days. If you listen closely, you can hear its strange call: chest-thumping roars alternating with keening wails and abundant sniffles. And if you look carefully, you'll doubtless soon spot one, for they...
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  • Mysterious Island
    March 1991

    Mysterious Island

    Missaukee County, in the heart of the lower peninsula of Michigan, is perfectly flat and perfectly rural, its farms possessed by Dutch Calvinists. When first I, aged 17, traveled across the county, every farmhouse and every barn was ornamented by...
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  • A Conversation Around Southern Poetry
    March 1991

    A Conversation Around Southern Poetry

    Kelly Cherry and Henry Taylor met at the University of Virginia in 1960, where he was a first-year undergraduate and she was a graduate student in philosophy. After he got over feeling inferior because the difference in their ages is only a few...
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  • Ancestors
    March 1991

    Ancestors

    With the deaths of Robert Penn Warren and Walker Percy the specter of the star system is loose again in the land. "Who will be their successors? Who will pick up their mantle?"
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  • Much in Little
    March 1991

    Much in Little

    When Harlan Hubbard and his wife, Anna, set themselves adrift on the Ohio in late 1946 in a homemade shantyboat, they began not only a five-year river adventure but a way of life together that was as distinctive as it was unmodern.
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  • Poets and the Art of Interior Design
    February 1991

    Poets and the Art of Interior Design

    The sculptress Malvina Hoffman found the poetry of her friend Marianne Moore hard to understand and would sometimes ask her to read a poem aloud.
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  • The Vessels of His Meaning
    February 1991

    The Vessels of His Meaning

    To say that O.B. Hardison, Jr., who died last August at the age of 61, was a poet is in some respects to diminish his memory. "Poet" has become a hollow accolade, a label with an honorific charge that is not unrelated to the disesteem in which...
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  • La Florida
    February 1991

    La Florida

    In an expedition that began in 1538 and endured until 1543, Hernando de Soto and six hundred men failed to discover in what is today Florida and the Lower American South that which they craved most to find—gold.
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  • An American Elegy
    February 1991

    An American Elegy

    When a writer lives with and writes about a character in four books and for more than thirty years, as John Updike has done with Harry ("Rabbit") Angstrom—central character of Rabbit at Rest and of the quartet that began with Rabbit, Run in...
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  • 'Something Like a Final Ordering'
    February 1991

    'Something Like a Final Ordering'

    In the seventy-seventh of The Dream Songs, John Berryman writes, "these fierce & airy occupations, and love, / raved away so many of Henry's years." The pervasive tone of Berryman's life and writing, spanning the tired, mad, and lonely years from...
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  • What Gift?
    February 1991

    What Gift?

    I am a Cornishman, a Celt, born in the far southwest of England. Apart from the six years of the Second World War and my time as a student at a college of education, I have lived the whole of my life not only in the small market-town of...
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  • Great Exaggerations
    January 1991

    Great Exaggerations

    By the early 1960's, conditions in America and in Europe had proceeded far enough that pundits and intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic felt free to confirm what they referred to as "the death of God."
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  • A Province of the Republic
    January 1991

    A Province of the Republic

    These volumes—one of letters, the other heavily dependent on correspondence—document and analyze, respectively, episodes of American literary history that feature three brilliant personalities.
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  • Battling the Gorgon
    January 1991

    Battling the Gorgon

    In this little "Memoir of Madness," first delivered in abbreviated form at a symposium on affective disorders sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and then greatly expanded for publication...
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  • The Virginia Cavalier
    January 1991

    The Virginia Cavalier

    "We are Cavaliers," novelist William Caruthers boasted, "that generous, fox-hunting, winedrinking, dueling and reckless race of men which gives so distinct a character to Virginians wherever they may be found."
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  • The Old Reliable
    December 1990

    The Old Reliable

    Here is a sentence that begins with the deep predication of Henry James, though not with his tone, and proceeds to a cadenza in the unmistakable Amis mode: "On current form he would never be in danger of imagining that her merely being his sister...
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  • Exit Stage Left
    December 1990

    Exit Stage Left

    The Outside: beyond wall and watchtower, on the far lee of the border, the place of the Other, the place of exile. Now that the walls are crumbling around the world, helped along by the crowbars of angry patriots; now that the faces of the other...
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  • A Durable Fire
    December 1990

    A Durable Fire

    George Garrett is a man of letters—a member of a diminishing breed that may soon vanish. For well over three decades he has regularly published poetry, criticism, and fiction long and short; he has also written screenplays and memoirs, and...
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  • Death in Disguise
    November 1990

    Death in Disguise

    The 1950's were the high point of D.H. Lawrence's critical reputation. In those days university English professors were keen teachers of Lawrence's message of "life" and emotional honesty, and he was a popular subject for undergraduate theses.
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  • Pacific Rimshot
    October 1990

    Pacific Rimshot

    Thomas Pynchon has been living out of the public eye for almost four decades now, a literary hermit who has succeeded by his very reclusiveness in attracting more attention than his less retiring colleagues.
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  • Honest Words
    October 1990

    Honest Words

    It may be an embarrassing admission for somebody who has been a book review editor for the last 14 and a half years, but the truth is I had never heard of Tony Hillerman until May 1989, when I began traveling in the Southwest in connection with a...
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  • A Representative Man
    October 1990

    A Representative Man

    Even in these dreariest of days in academia, when American history has largely become a plaything for canting ideologues, the Old South continues to attract outstanding talent. Fine books and articles continue to appear, as Clyde Wilson's...
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  • Escape from Grub Street
    October 1990

    Escape from Grub Street

    Walter Scott, in 1820, wrote that Fielding is "father of the English Novel." Yet James Russell Lowell, in 1881, remarked to an English audience that "We really know almost as little of Fielding's life as of Shakespeare's."
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  • Invocations of Malebranche
    September 1990

    Invocations of Malebranche

    "The great issues don't need to be vulgarized," observes the narrator of David Slavitt's 15th work of fiction. "They are vulgar, for they are exactly those things that everybody worries about."
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  • Why Are You Happy?
    September 1990

    Why Are You Happy?

    Walker Percy never tired of asking a simple question: why are people happy in circumstances that ought to make them miserable?
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  • Lost in Wonderland
    July 1990

    Lost in Wonderland

    It's a brave new world out there. Factory workers are made of metal and plastic; money, an increasingly abstract proposition, is made and lost not in workshops and fields but on flickering screens . . .
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  • Still the Colonies
    July 1990

    Still the Colonies

    Since the days when Tom Paine set himself up as chief propagandist for the emerging American colonies the United States has been subject to invasion by British journalists. They come for a variety of reasons.
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  • Homme Sérieux
    July 1990

    Homme Sérieux

    Kipling should be a fascinating subject for literary history. He was enormously gifted and successful, the child of a modest, nonconformist Anglo-Scot family that, besides producing him, also produced his cousin, the conservative prime minister...
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  • Good Books That Sell Good
    July 1990

    Good Books That Sell Good

    Gore Vidal's "American chronicle" is a roman fleuve that looks beyond Powell's The Music of Time to Roger Martin du Card's Les Thibaults series of the 1920's and 30's, and what it demonstrates is that our assumptions about popular culture are...
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  • Another Life of C.S. Lewis
    June 1990

    Another Life of C.S. Lewis

    In 1949 Chad Walsh, at that time an obscure poet and literary critic at Beloit College in Wisconsin, published the first book on C.S. Lewis. Entitled C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Sceptics, this long out-of-print volume is still one of the best...
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  • Edward Abbey: R.I.P.
    June 1990

    Edward Abbey: R.I.P.

    With the death of Edward Abbey, aged 62, in March of last year, the Western portion of what once was really the United States lost her greatest defender of the post-World War II era.
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  • Gnostic Epiphanies
    June 1990

    Gnostic Epiphanies

    Cormac McCarthy, 56-years-old, is the author of five published novels, which between them have sold approximately fifteen thousand copies in the original hardcover editions, published by Random House.
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  • Dancing Man
    June 1990

    Dancing Man

    A few months past there came to visit us for a weekend, at our house in the backwoods, Mr. Andrew Lytle, man of letters, aged 87 years. Although there are not many big houses farther north than ours, and although Mr. Lytle is very much a man of...
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  • The Shiny Surface of Obscurity
    June 1990

    The Shiny Surface of Obscurity

    "Nobody would write verse if poetry were a question of 'making oneself understood'; indeed, it is a question of making understood that quiddity which words alone fail to convey."
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  • Dance to the Music of Time
    June 1990

    Dance to the Music of Time

    The struggle to keep poetry alive is a game of tag-team wrestling, and the greatest poets play their matches with the poets of ancient Greece and Rome. We all know it for Latin. Plautus and Vergil are centones of Greek verse, their originality...
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  • Hell Is Other People
    June 1990

    Hell Is Other People

    Remember Kate Millett? She made the cover of Time in 1970 after her dissection of literary machismo, Sexual Politics, became a blockbuster best-seller and won her the title of leading feminist spokesperson.
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  • When the Old Order Passes
    May 1990

    When the Old Order Passes

    There's a story about the filming of The Big Sleep that ought to be true even if it isn't. When Howard Hawks was supervising the final cut he realized he didn't know who had killed the butler, so he summoned the screenwriter, William Faulkner, to...
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  • The Symbolic Interpreter
    May 1990

    The Symbolic Interpreter

    Nearly thirty years after his death in 1962, Robinson Jeffers occupies a secure niche in the pantheon of American poets. I suspect, indeed, that his place may well be the most secure of all.
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  • Tyger, Tyger
    May 1990

    Tyger, Tyger

    To pick up Tales of the Big Game Hunters is to suffer instant culture shock. The book plunges us into a world in which animals are slaughtered for the ivory, the skins, the racks, and the wonderful dangerous pleasure of the chase and kill.
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  • Blue Suede Shoes Are the Least of It
    May 1990

    Blue Suede Shoes Are the Least of It

    Perhaps I am not the ideal reviewer for this book. I do not own a television, and I have not seen a movie in a dozen years. (I do have an AM-FM radio in my truck, which I use to monitor blizzards, sandstorms, flashfloods, and tornadoes.)
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  • Three Voices From the South
    May 1990

    Three Voices From the South

    Nearly sixty years ago John Peale Bishop published a remarkable essay in the Virginia Quarterly Review entitled "The South and Tradition."
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  • The Value of Theory
    May 1990

    The Value of Theory

    This volume in tribute to Elizabeth Flower is loosely organized, with scarcely a mention of Flower's work—the presumption doubtless being that the general sentiments and character of her work are best captured by such a gestaltist approach.
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  • Large Canvas, Long Reach
    April 1990

    Large Canvas, Long Reach

    Madison Smartt Bell has a penchant for keeping his fiction mysterious at its deepest core. The protagonist of his 1985 novel, Waiting for the End of the World, is a fellow called Larkin who is out to destroy New York City for no reason a reader...
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  • Gradus Ad Parnassum
    April 1990

    Gradus Ad Parnassum

    How neglectful of David Dubai not to write the great book on the piano, especially considering what a fine position he was in to do so! So let's get the unpleasantness out of the way first, before reviewing the merits of his study.
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  • Rouge on a Corpse's Lips
    April 1990

    Rouge on a Corpse's Lips

    Two ironies attend the life and career of Whittaker Chambers. The first is that the one-time Communist spy, foreign editor of Time, and witness against Soviet espionage became notable during his life and afterwards only because of the Hiss Case,...
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  • That Infamous Diary
    April 1990

    That Infamous Diary

    Rarely does a published diary, even of a celebrated writer, become anything more than fodder for the specialist. Yet H.L. Mencken's diary has been turned into a cause célèbre by its editor, Charles A. Fecher.
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  • The Houdini of Talcottville
    April 1990

    The Houdini of Talcottville

    There are three ways in which the word "magician" may be applied to the critic and author Edmund Wilson: in his relationship to the printed word, in his relationships with women, and, more literally, as a straightforward reference to the fact of...
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  • The American Spectrum
    March 1990

    The American Spectrum

    There is no conflict, M.E. Bradford insists, "between preserving the language and securing a civil polity," a credo which, embedded in "What We Can Know For Certain: Frank Owsley and the Recovery of Southern History," provides the subtext for the...
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  • The Way It Felt: Hemingway's Apprentice Years
    March 1990

    The Way It Felt: Hemingway's Apprentice Years

    If strange things are happening in the academy, perhaps none is stranger than the debate concerning the American literary canon provoked in part by the current reassessment of Ernest Hemingway's fiction.
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  • The Critic and the Conservative Imagination
    February 1990

    The Critic and the Conservative Imagination

    Because of the great range of his interests, it is very difficult to predict what Professor Jeffrey Hart will next produce. Hart writes out of a devotion to literature as "the principal vehicle for transmitting the ideas and feelings that...
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  • Good Lovers Are Dead Lovers
    February 1990

    Good Lovers Are Dead Lovers

    Charley Bland, as his father describes him, would have been a prodigal son except he never had the gumption to leave home.
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  • Lost Horizon
    February 1990

    Lost Horizon

    The 50th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II has occasioned an outpouring of nostalgic literature in Great Britain. The elegiac note may be appropriate: the year 1939 was, after all, a great point of rupture.
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  • Brave Theory Puffing
    February 1990

    Brave Theory Puffing

    "Few people," we find Frank Kermode saying by page 42 of his 46-page Prologue,—"Few people can take much pleasure in modern academic literary criticism except its practitioners, who do not mind that an intelligent outsider would surely find it...
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  • Space Art
    February 1990

    Space Art

    Catholic readers of American literature have always recognized that the difference between Eastern and Western fiction is the difference between New Canaan, Connecticut, and Tuba City, Arizona.
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  • Walk in Beauty, Walk in Fear
    January 1990

    Walk in Beauty, Walk in Fear

    On a windswept bluff high above the reddish-brown San Juan River, four states—Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado—converge. Visitors to the area come to play a game of twister at the Four Comers Monument, contorting themselves so that each of...
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  • Epistles From the Master
    January 1990

    Epistles From the Master

    What an inspiring book this is! Even though the trials of the literary life are notorious and banal, there are few of us who are sufficiently hardened to the blows that we don't at least on occasion allow our guard to fall and make the mistake of...
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  • Exorcisms
    December 1989

    Exorcisms

    Moshe Leshem ends Balaam's Curse with a warning against the growing political power of the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate. By yielding to Orthodox authorities on educational and cultural matters, he says, Israelis are sacrificing their democratic...
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  • The Unsovereign Artist
    December 1989

    The Unsovereign Artist

    A thousand-page book, like a thousand-foot ship, must not disappoint; unfortunately, Karl Frederick's William Faulkner is the QE II of American literary biography. "This book attempts," Professor Karl states in his foreword, "to integrate the...
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  • Tugging the Leash
    December 1989

    Tugging the Leash

    Marlowe's back, and Parker's got him. Well he should. Parker knows every one of Chandler's quirks: he wrote part of his dissertation about Chandler twenty years ago. And then he started writing his Spenser books.
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  • Poetry You Can Read
    December 1989

    Poetry You Can Read

    In his introduction to the 1962 Penguin anthology Contemporary American Poetry, Donald Hall wrote, "For thirty years an orthodoxy ruled American poetry. It derived from the authority of T.S. Eliot and the new critics; it exerted itself through...
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  • Nunc Est Bibendum
    December 1989

    Nunc Est Bibendum

    A new battle of the books is in progress. This time, the lines are not being drawn between modern and ancient but between the present and the recent past, and the antagonists are not Homer against Milton or Aristotle vs. Bacon, but such younger...
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  • A Local Globalist
    November 1989

    A Local Globalist

    Here we have a series of books—two more are planned—that restore to view the literary career of John Gould Fletcher (1886-1950), a writer whose work has been heretofore more often cited than read.
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  • A Tour of the Labyrinth
    November 1989

    A Tour of the Labyrinth

    Hugh Kenner, by day an unassuming professor of English literature at the Johns Hopkins University, is our foremost practitioner of the ancient cult of the maze, a celebrant of this endless labyrinth in which we live.
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  • The Cow in the Trail
    November 1989

    The Cow in the Trail

    Even in mid-September you cannot go comfortably by day into the deserts of southeastern Utah. Together the late Edward Abbey and I rented horses and rode into the La Sal mountains, following what began as a dirt road and ended as a trail at an...
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  • What Makes a Nation?
    October 1989

    What Makes a Nation?

    When Fernand Braudel died in 1985, The Times of London called him "the greatest of Europe's historians."
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  • The Ten Deadly Sins
    October 1989

    The Ten Deadly Sins

    This book, originally published in Czech in 1973, is based on an amusing literary conceit. Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, an English Catholic priest and important early 20th-century theologian, was also a distinctive figure in the development of the...
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  • All For Love
    October 1989

    All For Love

    With the publication of the first volume of an expanded edition of her letters in 1980, and now this biography, Mary Shelley's reputation is being reconsidered. This renewed attention is not due to the perennial interest in her husband, Percy...
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  • Kings of the Wild Frontier
    October 1989

    Kings of the Wild Frontier

    Until 20 years ago, one could count on Hollywood to produce at least one film every few years dealing with early American history. John Ford gave us Drums Along the Mohawk in the 1940's, and Disney gave us the Swamp Fox in the 1960's.
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  • The Importance of Being by Ernest
    September 1989

    The Importance of Being by Ernest

    If Ernest Hemingway had any notion of what would happen to his first drafts, miscellanea, letters received and sent, and unfinished manuscripts after his death, it's likely he would have set fire to his study and all its contents before priming...
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  • Babes in Gangland
    September 1989

    Babes in Gangland

    E.L. Doctorow is our loudest contemporary champion of the social novel, whose defining characteristic he posits as "the large examination of society within a story" of "imperial earthshaking intention."
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  • Passion and Pedantry
    September 1989

    Passion and Pedantry

    William Butler Yeats's picture of the scholar is not a pretty one ("All cough in ink. All wear the carpet with their shoes.") and literature does not give us many scholarly heroes.
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  • Novel Ideas
    August 1989

    Novel Ideas

    "Nigger" is the word upon which Bill Kauffman balances and dances his first novel, Every Man a King. It is, to say the very least, a difficult word. It is a word denied to white lips in polite society, and is now heard only coming with any...
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  • Merlin of the Woods
    July 1989

    Merlin of the Woods

    The matter of the Celts has had a strong hold on the English-speaking imagination for a long time, at least since the publication in the mid-18th century of the forged Poems of Ossian.
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  • The Danish Swift
    July 1989

    The Danish Swift

    Why, after half a century, Peter Freuchen's Arctic Adventure has to be rescued from virtual oblivion is one of the true puzzles of literary anniversaries.
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  • Billy, The Fabulous Moolah, and Me
    July 1989

    Billy, The Fabulous Moolah, and Me

    When I first heard that V.S. Naipaul was writing a book about the South, it made me nervous. What would the author of Among the Believers make of Jim and Tammy? Could we look for Louisiana: A Wounded Civilization?
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  • An Audience of One
    June 1989

    An Audience of One

    Any literary effort by David Slavitt is a complicated business for a reviewer. The complexity arises not immediately from the work itself, but from the prolific nature of Slavitt.
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  • Going Beyond Tink and Tank
    May 1989

    Going Beyond Tink and Tank

    Charles Edward Eaton, in New and Selected Poems, as elsewhere, is a remarkable poet, a fine metrist and stylist, and a close disciple of Wallace Stevens in artistic skill and finesse as well as in theory and topics.
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  • Physician as Novelist
    May 1989

    Physician as Novelist

    or Why the Best Training for a Novelist in These Last Years of the 20th Century is an Internship at Bellevue or Cook County Hospital, and How This Training Best Prepares Him for Diagnosing T.S. Eliot's 'Waste Land'
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  • Voices: An Excerpt From 'Entered From the Sun'
  • Alien Worlds
    May 1989

    Alien Worlds

    She was a handsome woman, Raylene Thomason, not what you'd call beautiful, but with Cherokee blood that gave her a broad pleasant face with a clean jawline and steady dark eyes.
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  • Old Possum in his Letters
    April 1989

    Old Possum in his Letters

    "I think one's letters ought to be X about oneself (I live up to this theory!)—what else is there to talk about? Letters should be indiscretions—otherwise they are simply official bulletins." So T.S. Eliot remarked to his Harvard classmate, the...
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  • Making History
    April 1989

    Making History

    The best historical writings, whatever their subject matter, have certain characteristics in common. All display a deft mastery of primary sources, building up from a solid base of fact without allowing the data to drag them down into pedantry.
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  • Writing in the Tolstoy Tradition
    April 1989

    Writing in the Tolstoy Tradition

    "I always wanted to be a writer I can remember the first book I ever wrote when I was very little. I wrote the title and the index, but I didn't actually get ’round to the contents." Nikolai Tolstoy laughs and leans back, trying to fit his...
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  • Madness in Great Ones
    April 1989

    Madness in Great Ones

    The American poet and man of letters John Berryman created in his half-memoir, half-short story "The Imaginary Jew" what is very likely the most powerfully compressed vision of vulgar, visceral racism in our literature.
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  • Pound Foolish
    April 1989

    Pound Foolish

    The question arises very early on and looms ever larger as one progresses through this thousand-page-long life: how did Humphrey Carpenter stand it? Pound's range was from loathsome or contemptible at the beginning to hateful at the apex of his...
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  • Gnawing Away at Vidal
    March 1989

    Gnawing Away at Vidal

    We do not live in a golden age for homegrown and corn-fed radical critics. Legal restrictions on political speech remain few, but informal strictures and the passage of time have muted those who remember—and like—the free, landed republic that...
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  • Bad Georgie
    March 1989

    Bad Georgie

    The facts of George Garrett's literary career are laid out in the bibliography here: his 24 books include novels, plays, and collections of poems and short stories. In addition he has served as editor of 17 other books—interviews with...
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  • Prodigal Son
    March 1989

    Prodigal Son

    Louis Simpson stands as an easy example of the poet divided, whose best talents and strongest predilections are at odds with one another. He takes Walt Whitman as spiritual father and his relationship with the figure of Whitman is as troubled and...
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  • The Deconstructive Lyric
    March 1989

    The Deconstructive Lyric

    The historical causes and influences are long, sufficiently complex, and deficiently Romantic. The Romantics taught self-expression, the power of the self, the boundlessness of the self; the contemporary bearers of such tidings write of the...
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  • Recreating the Epic
    February 1989

    Recreating the Epic

    The 19th century had an unfortunate passion for novels in verse. I have tried to read some of the more celebrated, notably Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (which Virginia Woolf somehow found delightful), and never made it through to the...
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  • A Prince of Our Disorder
    February 1989

    A Prince of Our Disorder

    In 1982 The Village Voice published an article accusing the famous Polish emigre writer Jerzy Kosinski of being a fraud. The authors (Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith) argued that Kosinski's novels had all received extensive and...
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  • Piping Hot
    February 1989

    Piping Hot

    Concocted by four editors of something called Equator magazine (I am told it is a large glossy tabloid of odd people doing odd things), Hot Type's subtitle is: "Our Most Celebrated Writers Introduce the Next Word in Contemporary American Fiction."
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  • Prison Pencil, Supermarket Crayon
    February 1989

    Prison Pencil, Supermarket Crayon

    "Poets in our civilization," a famous poet wrote in his most famous essay, "must be difficult." He went on to explain his thought, and his Englishspeaking audience understood him.
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  • A View From the Top of the Ridge
    February 1989

    A View From the Top of the Ridge

    For the last several weeks, working at a leisurely pace, I have been reading through the new and extremely ambitious Columbia Literary History of the United States. This is a huge work, one which has many merits and aspires to be inclusive.
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  • On Poetry
    February 1989

    On Poetry

    People want to save their souls by writing poetry, or so they say. Should we take that seriously? Did Smart save his soul in the madhouse writing all those lucid lines? Perhaps it's enough to say that from primitive times there has been a need...
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  • The World of the Small Press
    January 1989

    The World of the Small Press

    If your local bookstore does not stock Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson, Guilty by Georges Bataille, Altazor by Vincente Huidobro, Compact by Maurice Roche, Space in Motion by Juan Goytisolo, I-57 by Paul Metcalf, Concierto Barroco by...
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  • Transylvanian Tales
    January 1989

    Transylvanian Tales

    It is no surprise that there are a number of mysteries about this book. The author was the deputy director of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service; for reasons that he does not care to explain, he defected to the USA in July 1978.
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  • The Banality of Fiction
    January 1989

    The Banality of Fiction

    It's Sunday morning in London. The Sunday Times is here. (Yes, we too have a Sunday Times.) The "Week in Review" section is nice and fat. (Yes, it's nice and fat here, too.) Headline: "End Game: Why the Soviets are pulling out of Afghanistan."
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  • Ahistorical Admonitions
    January 1989

    Ahistorical Admonitions

    In "The Politics of Human Nature," Thomas Fleming has boldly undertaken to delineate a system of natural politics. A classicist by training, Fleming believes that "the collapse of Roman authority in the West created a crisis from which political...
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  • Inspiration and Craft
    January 1989

    Inspiration and Craft

    "Take these two books," is an entirely arbitrary prompting by an editor who happened to have them around on a shelf. Willy-nilly, here they are together, and one looks at them, shuffling through the poems, some familiar and some not.
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  • Kazin and Caligula?
    January 1989

    Kazin and Caligula?

    In our age the business of literature has become as stale and well-organized as the reports, memoranda, and self-help books that comprise the literature of business.
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  • Interpreting Burke
    December 1988

    Interpreting Burke

    Father Francis P. Canavan, S.J., with the publication of this his second book on Edmund Burke, clearly establishes himself as one of the most—if not the most—able interpreter of Burke's political philosophy.
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  • Wings of the Navy
    November 1988

    Wings of the Navy

    Technology can exalt as well as dwarf the individual. The Great War's machine guns staged a chattering pageant of impersonal slaughter; yet its warplanes brought forth paladins such as Frank Luke, Billy Bishop, and Baron von Richtofen, their...
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  • Measured Speech
    November 1988

    Measured Speech

    A maritime artist I know tells me that he once met an eminent critic who claimed to have given up the brush and taken up the pen because he had won all the prizes in art school.
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  • Reader's Digest
    October 1988

    Reader's Digest

    Some 40 nonclassic books are discussed by Professor Perrin in this pleasant volume of literary preferences. By a classic, Noel Perrin means a work that everyone recognizes as highly important, even though one may never have opened it: something...
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  • A Portrait of the Artisan as a Young Man
    September 1988

    A Portrait of the Artisan as a Young Man

    Many 20th-century literary figures have undergone such exhaustive biographical treatment that a scholar wishing to venture into well-traversed territory is compelled to proffer a startling new thesis to vindicate his labors.
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  • Speaking True
    September 1988

    Speaking True

    What is it that poetry does and is? We can say that poetry is about why people do things, and about what we know, and don't know, of human motive. We can also say that poetry is in language, sounded, and that poems should say what they mean and...
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  • Mr. Eliot's Dreams
    September 1988

    Mr. Eliot's Dreams

    T.S. Eliot has become so thoroughly exalted, especially among conservative intellectuals, as the greatest poetic avatar of Western civilization in modern times (a role he must share, though, with Yeats and Pound) that it may shock many to notice...
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  • Reading Swift Straight
    September 1988

    Reading Swift Straight

    Telling truth in the form of a lie is one of the odder things human beings do. It is hard to imagine irony in Paradise, and there can certainly be none in Heaven, where we know even as we are known, and there is nothing to hide and nothing hideable.
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  • Prophet of the Left
    July 1988

    Prophet of the Left

    I first met my future colleague Raymond Williams in 1959, when I was a young lecturer in English literature at Cambridge and he still a tutor in adult education in Oxford. His best-known book.
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  • Stardust
    July 1988

    Stardust

    The post-World War I shattered visions of Pound and Eliot are perhaps fundamentally less different from the incoherencies of Kerouac and Corso, the randomly referential allegory of Ashbery, or the associative anarchy of Bly and Merwin than we...
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  • Barbara Pym's Unsentimental Eye
    July 1988

    Barbara Pym's Unsentimental Eye

    Admirers of Barbara Pym have several regrets. The greatest is that there aren't more of her novels. Pym would undoubtedly have written more had she lived longer, for her death in 1980 occurred at a time of renewed productivity.
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  • Emily and The Feminists
    July 1988

    Emily and The Feminists

    The centennial marking the death of the poet Emily Dickinson, on May 15, 1886, slipped quietly by a couple of years ago without noticeable effect on the national consciousness. The media in general, from the Sunday supplements to the guardians of...
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  • New York Writing
    June 1988

    New York Writing

    It is just possible that Tom Wolfe's first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, may be more important for extraliterary reasons than for purely literary ones. Of course, there are no purely literary reasons for anything, especially in the form of...
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  • Electric Logocentricity
    June 1988

    Electric Logocentricity

    In the beginning was the Word. Not verbum, the written word, thought Erasmus, but sermo, the spoken word. Whatever its validity for understanding St. John's Gospel, literature that matters seems to split along the lines of that dichotomy.
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  • Criticism Lite
    May 1988

    Criticism Lite

    Any reader familiar with Martin Amis' novels—especially his most recent, Money: A Suicide Note (1984)—will not be surprised by the relentlessly contemptuous tone of The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America, a collection of his essays and...
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  • In Thrall

    In Thrall

    American professors of literature (or a large number of them) have been in thrall for some time to a body of "literary theory" exported from Europe in the late 60's.
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  • The Writer as a Young Liar
    April 1988

    The Writer as a Young Liar

    Recently, someone asked me to review Selected Letters of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but so far nothing has come of it. The book, published by Rutgers University Press, is the fruit of many years' work under the direction of Joseph Frank, author of the...
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  • Who Was Vladimir Nabokov?
    April 1988

    Who Was Vladimir Nabokov?

    The present essay was prompted, in part, by the newest volume on Nabokov by Andrew Field, the volume which generated hostile reviews from people who consider Nabokov one of the best writers who ever lived, and a favorable reaction from those who...
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  • The Discovery
    April 1988

    The Discovery

    The old saw tells us that all things come to those who wait. And what a joy it is to find Andrew Lytle, in his vigorous 80's, receiving his just due, however late.
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  • Homage To T.S. Eliot
    April 1988

    Homage To T.S. Eliot

    Nineteen eighty-eight is the centennial year of T.S. Eliot's birth, and there is sure to be a flood of tributes to a writer that has changed the course of poetry and criticism and whose reactionary pronouncements on politics and religion have...
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  • Ceremonies in the Catacombs
    April 1988

    Ceremonies in the Catacombs

    The following is the text of Mr. Paz's address at the 1987 Ingersoll Prizes Awards Banquet.
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  • On Clarity
    April 1988

    On Clarity

    The following is the text of Dr. Pieper's address at the 1987 Ingersoll Prizes Awards Banquet.
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  • The Scandal in T.S. Eliot's Life
    April 1988

    The Scandal in T.S. Eliot's Life

    T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), dead now for more than 20 years, continues to vex those for whom his poetry is not complete—or is not completely to be understood—without an intimate knowledge of his biography.
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  • Paz
    April 1988

    Paz

    Upon a confirmed gringo like me, contemporary Spanish language poetry makes much the same impression as contemporary Spanish or Latin American concert music. Broad prairies of cadenza enclose a garden patch of melodic theme, an orotund thunder of...
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  • Ages in Chaos
    April 1988

    Ages in Chaos

    Discussion of treason has become almost impossible without quoting Sir John Harington's famous couplet, "Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason? / For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
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  • The First Ring of Hostility
    March 1988

    The First Ring of Hostility

    Cows sacred, evil, and venal are shot by Vladimir Voinovich in this satiric look at the Soviet Union that reads like a combination "Ivan in Wonderland" and Zamiatin's WE.
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  • Revenge of the Nerd
    March 1988

    Revenge of the Nerd

    Shortly before Christmas 1984, Bernhard Hugo Goetz shot and seriously wounded four young men, passengers on a New York City subway train. Before he disappeared into the winter evening, Goetz told the conductor that the four had been trying to rob...
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  • Sterile Prairie
    February 1988

    Sterile Prairie

    It has been said that an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger. But the life of the mind hardly requires that William and Henry, rather than Frank and Jesse, first spring to mind...
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  • An Elegy to a Writer
    January 1988

    An Elegy to a Writer

    Pearl Craigie, the long forgotten novelist and playwright "John Oliver Hobbes," who died in 1906, is due for resurrection. She has haunted me for over 40 years.
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  • Cut-Flower Moralists
    January 1988

    Cut-Flower Moralists

    Awaiting trial for a murder he did not commit, Dmitri Karamazov is visited in jail in the closing pages of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov by the progressive intellectual Rakitin.
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  • Place of Asylum
    January 1988

    Place of Asylum

    The theater is dead, the novel dying, poetry extinct; biography is the province of graveyard ghouls, and history a battleground on which disheveled armies of academic theorists contend with hucksters and prostitutes for the fate of an entire...
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  • Dreams of Education
    January 1988

    Dreams of Education

    The possibility of universal literacy lies in our hands. Is it really worth grasping at? The foundations of the liberal arts curriculum were born in enthusiasm and high hopes. To what extent has it outlived its usefulness? What do we want from...
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  • The Novel of Ideas
    December 1987

    The Novel of Ideas

    The rarest entity in American writing is the novelist with ideas—that is to say, one who is capable of writing the ideological novel. Of course, the term is enough to put a chill on what is in fact the novel of intelligence—even, one might add,...
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  • Reason and the Ethical Imagination
    December 1987

    Reason and the Ethical Imagination

    More than 50 years after his death, Irving Babbitt continues to evoke a sympathetic response horn minds and temperaments attuned to the ethical world view fostered by classical and Christian thought.
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  • Study in Scarlet
    December 1987

    Study in Scarlet

    Roger's Version, John Updike's latest novel, can be understood best if seen in intimate and serious connection with Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. First, the cast of characters: Hester (Esther), Arthur Dimmesdale (Dale Kohler), Roger...
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  • The Treason System
    November 1987

    The Treason System

    The Germans have a word for it: Schadenfreude. It means, literally, harm-joy, and refers to the nasty but common human tendency to rejoice when harm comes to someone else. In English, we don't have the word, but we certainly have the phenomenon.
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  • An American Prometheus
    November 1987

    An American Prometheus

    Sprawled on the sands of the New Mexico desert, Isador Isaac Rabi was witness on July 16, 1945, to a demonstration of scientific power so spectacular that neither his welder's glasses nor his analytical training could fully shield him from its...
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  • Selling Out
    November 1987

    Selling Out

    On November 29, 1984, an FBI agent in Massachusetts took extensive notes from a long conversation with an alcoholic woman about the alleged Soviet spy activities of her former husband, John Walker.
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  • States of Nature
    November 1987

    States of Nature

    A renaissance of American interest in contemporary Africa has been stimulated by media blitzes on famine-ridden Ethiopia and politically volatile South Africa, and by an award- winning film about a Norwegian adulteress's African farm.
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  • Hemingway and the Biographical Heresy
    November 1987

    Hemingway and the Biographical Heresy

    When I learned some time ago that the critic Kenneth S. Lynn was bringing out a book on the late Ernest Hemingway, hard on the heels of the large biographical study by Jeffrey Myers, I anticipated a reasonably cogent analysis of the stories, the...
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