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The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths
I'll start my review with a statement from the middle of this book, which might also stand for a précis of its argument:
Admitting that our lives are s
Mar 2013
Feb 27, 2013
The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays
Way back in 1978 I got entangled in an argument with a hysterical seminary student. I'd made some withering remark about the current chic fascination ...more
Jan 21, 2013
Jan 03, 2013
The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World
Ian McGilchrist's thick book on the "divided brain" is the most interesting book I've read this year. I'd come to regard the fabled right brain/left b ...more
Feb 21, 2010
Jan 24, 2010
Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
Maybe the most impressive work of literary criticism ever written, not least because of the circumstances under which it was composed: Auerbach, a Ger ...more
not set
Jul 14, 2007
Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age
Once in a great while I stumble onto a new book by an author I'd forgotten, and discover his work all over again. Twenty years ago I got lost in Rober ...more
Dec 06, 2014
Nov 30, 2014
Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to Be Happy
A self-help book for readers who hold self-help books in complete contempt. "It is not true that to live is to prepare ourselves for death and ruin; i ...more
Mar 12, 2011
Mar 14, 2011
Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia
Picking up where he left off in his genuinely iconoclastic book Straw Dogs, John Gray turns his attention to the ineluctably human penchant for utopia ...more
Dec 2007
Jan 01, 2008
How I Stopped Being a Jew
An illuminating, somewhat resigned, essay on the perils of identity politics, rather than a polemic. Shlomo Sand examines the myths of Jewish identity ...more
Oct 25, 2014
Oct 25, 2014
In Bluebeard's Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture
George Steiner, the polysyllabic polymath, is easy to make fun of — and I have to confess, I can hardly read him any more. But for at least 20 years I ...more
not set
Jul 13, 2007
Freedom and the Arts: Essays on Music and Literature
Last week I was saddened to read the obituary of Charles Rosen. I've been reading his essays in the New York Review of Books for decades, with pleasur ...more
Dec 17, 2012
Aug 29, 2012
The Idea of Europe: An Essay
First I blame myself – I had only a few minutes at City Lights on my lunch hour, and picked this book off the shelf after I'd grabbed Colm Tóibín's On ...more
Mar 19, 2015
Mar 19, 2015
Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History
Reading this book was like sipping a cup of tepid cocoa. I picked it up with high expectations – MacMillan is the much-heralded author of Paris 1919 ...more
Jul 22, 2009
Jul 22, 2009
Last Rites
I'm awarding 4 stars, one perhaps out of sentimentality and gratitude for Lukacs. Thirty years ago when I was a student I came across The Last Europea ...more
Feb 11, 2009
Feb 13, 2009
My Avant-Garde Education: A Memoir
Bernard Cooper is such a fine writer it's easy to follow him anywhere without a map. If his similes are over-constructed
We were like a collective emb
Apr 15, 2015
Apr 15, 2015
The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography
Love the polemical preface to this book! While The Sadeian Woman (originally published in 1979) may be something of a historical text these days, it's ...more
Jan 1985
Jul 16, 2007
From Gibbon to Auden: Essays on the Classical Tradition
I bought this book (at Amazon's prompting) because it promised essays on two favorite writers – Edward Gibbon and Constantin Cavafy. Bowersock is a cl ...more
May 05, 2009
May 05, 2009
Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life
This is a strange book, one that almost resists reading because it is so strange. It comes with some of the best blurbs I've ever seen. Rikki Ducornet ...more
Feb 18, 2012
Feb 18, 2012
The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism
From existentialism to deconstructionism, all of modern thought can be reduced to a mechanical denunciation of the West, emphasizing the the latter's ...more
Aug 27, 2011
Aug 28, 2011
The Poetry of Thought: From Hellenism to Celan
"The phenomenology of pure thought is almost daemonic in its strangeness." I've thought that myself. But if you haven't read the books of the hieropha ...more
Jun 02, 2012
Jun 02, 2012
From Prague to Paris
Like the iconoclastic Ioan Couliano, José Guilherme Merquior is a polymath who died too young, a man whose books I never pick up without mourning that ...more
Aug 31, 2011
Aug 31, 2011
Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths
I recently reread Plato's four "death of Socrates" dialogues (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo) and wanted a bit more historical background than I co ...more
Oct 2009
Nov 29, 2009
An Elemental Thing
A marvelous (an exact adjective in this case) book of essays, a kind of illuminated bibliography. Weinberger ranges across all types of esoterica - sc ...more
Nov 28, 2010
Nov 28, 2010
History and the Human Condition: A Historian's Pursuit of Knowledge
This book will take its place at the end of my shelf of books by the musing historian John Lukacs. In the steamy summer of 1976 I first discovered his ...more
Mar 03, 2013
Feb 27, 2013
What Ever Happened to Modernism?
For the last 10 years, T. J. Clark's formidable Farewell to an Idea has been perched on a high shelf, regally regarding my room, with only a few of it ...more
Feb 21, 2011
Feb 12, 2011
The Rebel
I admit – when I first picked up The Rebel in this artful Penguin edition, I was picturing beatniks with berets and cigarettes contesting over existen ...more
Jul 21, 2009
Jul 04, 2009
United States: Essays 1952-1992
This superb collection confirms Vidal as a modern Montaigne, the best essayist of the 20th century. My personal favorite: "Pink Triangle and Yellow St ...more
not set
Jul 16, 2007
Oranges and Peanuts for Sale
Weinberger's essays are one of my favorite discoveries of 2010. Oranges & Peanuts is (I think) his latest collection, and it's excellent. It kicks ...more
Jan 2011
Dec 03, 2010
The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Reading Batuman's The Possessed feels like listening to a long late-night monologue (fueled by Turkish coffee, baclava, ouzo, and more coffee) from a ...more
Apr 14, 2010
Apr 09, 2010
Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity
I've enjoyed the Tallis style of fisticuffs ever since I first read his barbed assault on post-structuralism in Not Saussure. In the last 15 years, I' ...more
Aug 29, 2011
Aug 29, 2011
Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts
For the past few months I've dipped in and out of Gass's latest collection of essays until I've read them all. There were only a few doldrums (the ess ...more
Jun 15, 2012
Jan 17, 2012
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