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

The thing about Mother’s Day*

When I was 7, I got kicked out of Brownies. The reason, as I understood it then, was that I had gone to a special Brownie feast out of uniform. The thing is, I had been in a rush, as usual, and had simply gone in my school clothes. Brown Owl told me to sit [...]

By | 2018-05-12T22:13:52+00:00 May 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|7 Comments

Week 47: Fall on your knees

A few years ago, in an interview with Herizons magazine, Ann-Marie Macdonald had this to say about sexual abuse: "The act of abuse doesn't take very long. It's often a fleeting moment in one's life, but the ripple effects - the water table is poisoned from then on, the food chain is poisoned." She was [...]

By | 2018-05-08T04:40:44+00:00 May 8th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 46: The Great Gatsby

"Let me tell you about the very rich," Fitzgerald once wrote. "They are different from you and me." He wrote it in a short story, "The Rich Boy", while he was waiting for The Great Gatsby to be published. It's worth quoting in full because it's at the heart of the Gatsby narrative: “Let me tell you [...]

By | 2018-05-01T15:45:46+00:00 May 1st, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 45: Howards End

I've always had a fondness for books about houses. The Fall of the House of Usher is one of the scariest (and will be reviewed here once I get up the nerve to reread it), but there are others that come to mind: Brideshead Revisited, Bleak House, Wuthering Heights, A House for Mr. Biswas. Houses have personalities - what would Gone [...]

By | 2018-04-24T15:26:10+00:00 April 24th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Week 44: The thoroughly modern Mrs. Bovary

Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880) came of age during a time of transition between the revolution of 1830 and that of 1848. It was an era of tremendous political and intellectual upheaval, a time when poets and writers like Wordsworth, Coleridge and Walter Scott denounced the rationalism of the Enlightenment, seeing themselves as champions of [...]

By | 2018-04-18T16:27:26+00:00 April 17th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments