Machado de Assis’ The Wager

Brazil’s most famous writer, Machado de Assis, languishes in relative obscurity outside his native country, despite the best efforts of estimable champions of his fiction as varied as Susan Sontag, Woody Allen and Harold Bloom. Within Brazil, however, he’s inescapable: […]

Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849

My introduction to Joseph Frank and his monumental five-volume biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky came more than a decade ago, in a review included in David Foster Wallace’s Consider The Lobster, and the man and his life’s work have been on […]

Don Winslow’s The Power Of The Dog

This is a book well outside my regular wheelhouse, a best-selling thriller novel, but it came up, again and again, in my readings about the decades-long debacle colloquially known as America’s “border crisis.” Drugs, sex and murder – the stock-in-trade […]

Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer

Contemplating the fate of Henry Miller’s first published novel, Tropic of Cancer, I can’t help but be amused. It was available in France from 1934 onwards, but British and American readers, constrained by their nations’ obscenity laws, could only read […]

Rick Moody’s Garden State

Rick Moody’s first novel, Garden State (1992), emerged from his time spent in two spiritual deserts: a mental hospital, where he checked himself in for alcoholism, and northern New Jersey, where he was living at the time. The resulting novel […]

Thomas Bernhard’s Gargoyles

The novel that made Thomas Bernhard’s national and international reputation, Gargoyles, offers readers an unbroken montage of human misery and ugliness, both physical and spiritual. Our narrator, a young engineering student, sets out in the very early hours of the […]

Aldous Huxley’s The Devils Of Loudun

In August of 1634, a French Catholic priest, Urbain Grandier, was tortured and burned at the stake, accused of ensorcelling an entire convent of Ursuline nuns. Few of the locals, including those who witnessed his body burn, gave much credence […]

John Gardner’s The Art Of Fiction

The book I am now reviewing, a classic how-to manual for writers, began its life with a much smaller circulation, first among John Gardner’s writing students, and later among a slightly larger community of writers and writing instructors, who affectionately […]

Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Yet again, my prejudices have been overturned. I have avoided Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest since high school, after dozens of bland book reports – no doubt more based on the film than the novel – gave […]

Marcel Proust’s Pleasures And Regrets

Proust is one of the many famous writers more invoked than read (a glance at the 4,200-odd pages of In Search of Lost Time goes a long way to explaining why), and yet somehow he cannot be approached fresh. Noviciates […]