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Week 57: Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Only in a book compiled by an English editor, with the assistance of a team of writers, editors, critics, and reporters who are also, for the most part, English, would George Orwell's third novel, following on the heels of Burmese Days and A Clergyman's Daughter, have made a list of 1001 Books You Must Read [...]

By | 2018-07-17T13:45:59+00:00 July 17th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 56: Absalom, Absalom!

There are writers whose books take you into another place and hold you there, from the opening sentence until the moment, finally, when they release you. Alice Munro and the fictional town of Jubilee, Ontario. Harper Lee and Monroe County, Alabama. John Steinbeck and the Golden State of California. William Faulkner set all but four [...]

By | 2018-07-10T15:14:49+00:00 July 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 54: Sons and Lovers . . . and Mothers

I've always felt that if you're going to read D. H. Lawrence, you should start with Sons and Lovers, his seminal tale of passion, domestic conflict, working-class aspirations, and poverty. Set in the Nottingham coalfields at the turn of the last century, it's a story of becoming - becoming a man, an artist, a lover. [...]

By | 2018-06-26T15:02:04+00:00 June 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 53: Eugene Onegin, in translation

It's often said that only those who know Russian can fully enjoy Alexander Pushkin's masterpiece, Eugene Onegin. They may be right. But until the time when you or I can read the original, I recommend Charles Johnston's translation, published in 1977 by Viking Press. For a non-Russian speaker like myself, it gives a sense of [...]

By | 2018-06-19T12:36:40+00:00 June 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 52: Tales of Horror and Suspense

The Fall of the House of Usher is 19 pages long. The Pit and the Pendulum is even shorter. By the standards of your average novel, these hardly make the grade. But, as David Rush writes in my edition of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die - a title that seems especially menacing [...]

By | 2018-06-17T23:05:13+00:00 June 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 51: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

When I was 23, I brought a copy of Ulysses with me to Greece and carried it around for five weeks. I never actually got around to reading it, but carrying it with me made me feel a cut above my fellow backpackers, most of whom were toting copies of Catch-22, Siddhartha, and The Hobbit. [...]

By | 2018-06-05T15:10:41+00:00 June 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 50: Portnoy’s Complaint

"So. Now you know the worst thing I have ever done. I fucked my own family's dinner." That line, one of the most memorable in modern literature, appears about halfway through Philip Roth's humorous, sexually explicit monologue, which is prefaced by the following clinical definition: "Portnoy's Complaint: A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic [...]

By | 2018-05-29T14:56:06+00:00 May 29th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 48: A Farewell to Arms

I always want to slap Hemingway's women. They never seem like fully realized characters. Unlike the men, who, while they may not always be admirable, at least are recognizably human. Hemingway believed that women, along with politics, drink, money and ambition, ruined a writer. So it's not surprising that his women tend to fall into [...]

By | 2018-05-15T15:22:51+00:00 May 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|5 Comments