Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY.
By this author
James Wood, a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of the new essay collection The Fun Stuff, is as close to a rock star as a literary critic can get. He is a full professor of English at Harvard based solely on the strength of his literary journalism (he doesn’t have a PhD).
For the modernist poet and painter David Jones, the artist’s life always seemed a natural fit. Born in Kent in 1895, he was raised to value beautiful words and images: his father was a printer’s overseer, and his family, Jones wrote, “took the printed page and its illustration for granted.” Jones himself started drawing at the age of five and enrolled in art school at fourteen. In 1922, after serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the First World War, he joined an artist guild formed by the sculptor Eric Gill and began experimenting with wood and copper engraving.
Dawn Powell once remarked, All Americans come from Ohio originally, if only briefly. This quotation has been in my mind lately. Thanks to the presidential election, weve been hearing a lot about Ohio over the past few weeks. It has been declared the swing state of all swing states, the bellwether of all bellwethers. If President Obama maintains his slim but consistent lead in the state, then hell likely win a second term and secure the continued existence of things like Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank Act.
In a recent post, Dominic Preziosi described how delightful reading James Woods reviews in the New Yorker can be. Im a huge Wood fan, too, and I love many of the things that Dominic seems to love: the mini-tutorials on fiction, the clever turns-of-phrase, the joy of seeing Wood size up and then take down an overpraised writer (in this case, Tom Wolfe).What Dominic doesnt mention, however, is how infuriating it can be to read Wood, even for a fan.
John Williams's Stoner, published in 1965 and reissued by New York Review Books in 2003, is a strange work. Its a campus novel that, unlike many of its predecessors in the genre, refuses to devolve into farce or caricature. In the world of Stoner, academics are quirky and petty, but they are never merely quirky, never merely petty; in their mixture of flaws and strengths, they resemble actual human beings.
Reviewing poetry in translation is a tricky business. Should the reviewer focus on the translation’s loyalty to the original text, or on its success as a work of art in its own right? Are we concerned primarily with fidelity, or with aesthetic power? If, as the Israeli poet Chaim Nachman Bialik once said, “reading poetry in translation is like kissing through a veil,” then reviewing poetry in translation is something even stranger: determining whether a different veil would have made for a better kiss.
In honor of Labor Day, here is Josef Pieper on the foundational value of leisure:
Allegra Goodman, one of my favorite novelists, announced on her blog that she has completed a complete manuscript of her new novel, Arcadia. (A surprising choice for a title considering Lauren Groff, the talented young author of The Monsters of Templeton, just published a novel with the same title this past year.)
In the July issue of Harper's, Christopher Beha has an essay (subscription required)examining several books by a group of writers--the philosopher Alex Rosenberg, the neuroscientist Sam Harris, and the general man-of-letters Alain de Botton--that Beha termsthe New New Atheists.
Ezra Pound was a champion rabble-rouser—a man whose career proves that, at least in literary quarrels, the key to winning is often to speak more loudly, and with more confidence, than one’s opponents. Given his zest for polemical overstatement, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that, in 1922, Pound publicly declared the end of the Christian era. With the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Pound said, Christianity had reached a terminal point. What would replace Christianity, he couldn’t be sure of; but that it was over and done he had no doubt.