Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY.
By this author
Over at the New York Review of Books' blog, the novelist Francine Prose has a post about the "nominations" process--the Orwellian name for the regular meetings at which President Obama decides which suspected terrorists to target for assassination.
In the most recent issue, Paul Johnston has a terrific review of Nicholas Humphreys new book, Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness. In Soul Dust, Humphrey explores what scientists call the hard problemhow it is that the brain, with its axons and neurons and synapses, gives rise to that most seemingly immaterial of phenomena, consciousness.
It’s perhaps easiest to introduce Michel Houellebecq, the controversial French writer whose new novel The Map and the Territory recently won the prestigious Prix Goncourt, by offering a couple of representative quotations from his previous work. Here is one, taken from his first novel, Whatever: “I don’t like this world. I definitely don’t like it. The society in which I live disgusts me; advertising sickens me; computers make me puke” (this coming from a computer programmer).
Awhile ago, I wrote about David Stacton's The Judges of the Secret Court. Stacton was an incredibly prolific and versatile author: he wrote historical fiction and poetry, Westerns and murder mysteries, even some gay pornography. In a 1963 Time article, Stacton was listed as one of the ten most promising young American writers of the time; others on the list included Ralph Ellison, Philip Roth, John Updike, Joseph Heller, and Walker Percy.
In Rose Tremains historical novel Restoration, two characters discuss the importance of background to a paintings overall effect. Even in a portrait, where the viewers attention is drawn primarily towards a single central figure, background is crucial:
In a brilliant takedown of the TV series Mad Men in the New York Reivew of Books, Daniel Mendelsohn condemned what many take to be the show’s main strength: its supposed fidelity to the historical period it represents. “In Mad Men,” Mendelsohn wrote, “everyone chain-smokes, every executive starts drinking before lunch, every man is a chauvinist pig.” Mendelsohn wasn’t saying that people actually didn’t smoke that much in the 1960s (they did), nor that sexism wasn’t systemic and largely unquestioned (it was).
At the suggestion of Matthew Boudway, I recently picked up G. A. Cohens If Youre an Egalitarian, How Come Youre So Rich? Im glad that I did. Besides having a superb title, Cohens book is perhaps the most philosophically sophisticated, morally persuasive analysis of inequality that Ive ever read.
W. H. Audens poetic sequence Horae Canonicae has the subtitle, Immolatus vicerit. These words come from the sixth-century Latin hymn Pange Lingua Gloriosi Proelium Certaminis. They mean, Sacrificed, he will be victorious.Horae Canonicae gets its title from the Churchs canonical hours, and each of the sequences seven poems refers to a specific, fixed time of prayer: Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, Compline, and Lauds.