Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia

Clive James, Australia’s foremost cultural critic, is living on borrowed time. In 2011, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and in 2011 doctors pronounced his condition fatal – and yet he lives on, conscious every day of his good […]

Robert Pinsky’s The Sounds Of Poetry

I first read Robert Pinsky’s The Sounds Of Poetry more than a decade ago, and in the intervening years have found no better guide to the music of verse. This little book was first published in 1998, while Pinsky was serving as Poet […]

Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower

We have an understandable but misguided fascination with people, with strong leaders we perceive to be imposing their wills on the world, but ideas, not human beings, direct the destinies of men. Hitler had his part to play, to be […]

Mark Twain’s The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

America has undergone incredible changes in the 100-plus years since the publication of Mark Twain’s Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn in 1885, and yet opening this book transports us unfailingly to the antebellum South, to a time of steamships and slavery, of […]

Walter Jackson Bate’s John Keats

If I were asked to recommend a single poet to a total neophyte wondering what all the fuss is about, I would hand them a volume of John Keats’ poetry, confident that, if they found nothing in Keats to love […]

Sven Birkerts’ Changing The Subject

My introduction to Sven Birkerts came with his 1994 eulogy to reading, The Gutenberg Elegies, which posited that the advent of the internet was severing us from our literary heritage. More than two decades removed from his initial hypothesis, Birkerts […]

Charles Bukowski’s The Roominghouse Madrigals

There is a popular image of the poet as tortured soul, constitutionally at odds with existence itself, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol and tapping out poetry on a typewriter between hangovers. The poets themselves are often at least partially to […]

Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint

More than a decade has passed since my first reading of Portnoy’s Complaint, and while much of that initial experience remains vivid in my memory, new discoveries have heightened my appreciation for Philip Roth’s most controversial novel. When it first […]

Gabriel Chevallier’s Fear

Next year will mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the First World War, and though there will undoubtedly be all manner of commemorations and teary-eyed speechmaking, not to mention an outpouring of sentiment on social media, I fear my generation is […]

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Selected Poems

I blush to confess that I was unaware that Robert Louis Stevenson, beloved author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, had written poetry until I came across this small volume at a used […]