Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Early Years

We end at the beginning. The third and final volume of Reiner Stach’s ambitious biography, Kafka: The Early Years, takes a look at the period between birth and early adulthood, encompassing Kafka’s childhood struggles for recognition within his family, his […]

Dan Simmons’ The Terror

In 1845, two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, set out from Britain as part of a naval expedition to discover and chart the Northwest Passage, a sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic Ocean. […]

Oriana Fallaci’s The Rage And The Pride

In Europe, the late Oriana Fallaci needs no introduction, but North American readers might benefit from a primer: she was a member of an Italian resistance movement during the Second World War; a celebrated journalist, whose coverage of the Vietnam […]

Edward St. Aubyn’s Some Hope

It occurred to me only retrospectively that the third book in Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series is the first to employ a sincere title. The first book, Never Mind, culminates in the rape of the young Patrick Melrose by his […]

Christopher Lasch’s The Culture Of Narcissism

One of the surest signs of impending old age manifests itself as a frustration with modern culture and a conviction that not only film and music were better in some halcyon past, but people, too. By that standard, I have […]

Edward St. Aubyn’s Bad News

Bad News, the second of Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, gives us our first glimpse of the titular protagonist as an adult. He is in his mid-twenties now, and rapidly blowing through a large inheritance to feed an extravagant […]

Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander

Appended to the front of my edition of Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander, the first in his celebrated Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels taking place during the Napoleonic Wars, is a diagram of a “square-rigged ship,” characteristic of the era, with […]

Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Years Of Insight

When we last left Kafka, after the first volume of Reiner Stach’s trilogy of biographies, the year was 1915: Europe was in the middle of a catastrophic war; Kafka had already completed two of his major works, “The Metamorphosis” and The […]

Edward St. Aubyn’s Never Mind

One of the staples of British fiction is the so-called “novel of manners,” which takes a magnifying glass to the customs, manners and mannerisms of a social class. Think, for example, of the works of Jane Austen, or of Thackeray’s […]

Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being

In “Lightness and Weight,” the opening chapter of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, the author ponders the burdens and benefits of two types of lives – the care-free, let’s say, and the weighty – with the paradox of […]