J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy

J.D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy was the surprise bestseller of 2016, largely because it offered a window into a segment of the American population that can justly claim to have been overlooked, even ignored, for the better part of the last two […]

William H. Gass’ Tests Of Time

William H. Gass died on December 6th of last year, four days before my thirtieth birthday. He was 93 years old. His death didn’t provoke the outpouring of acclaim accompanying the passing of, say, Philip Roth or Tom Wolfe, but […]

Ian Kershaw’s To Hell And Back

A recurring charge levelled at the growing populist movements of Europe is that they are undermining the fragile equilibrium that has produced more than a half-century of peace, and that their nationalist drumbeating can only lead to a third major […]

William S. Burroughs’ Junky

It was not my intention to read Junky, William S. Burroughs’ famous account of his heroin addiction and the ins and outs of the addict’s life, in tandem with Sam Quinones’ investigation into America’s present opioid crisis, Dreamland, but Burroughs’ […]

Sam Quinones’ Dreamland

Like many people, I was vaguely aware that America was in the midst of an opiate crisis, but the scope of the problem eluded me until I read Andrew Sullivan’s excellent New York Magazine exposé, “The Poison We Pick,” which begins […]

Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies

Like so many other children of the British Empire, I was introduced to Hilaire Belloc by my mother, who read to me from his Cautionary Tales For Children snatches of his moralizing verses (“A trick that everyone abhors / In little […]

Joseph Brodsky’s On Grief And Reason

When societies tip into totalitarianism, the poets and the comedians are always the first to go, for their very métiers involve them in the kind of criticism and encouragements to self-reflection that absolute power cannot tolerate. The Russian poet Joseph Brodsky was […]

John Gardner’s On Becoming A Novelist

Fiction writing, for all its pretensions to being a craft like any other, has a quasi-mystical element to it that should not be underestimated by even the most scrupulously rational of aspirants. In the first place, your material is not […]

Leszek Kolakowski’s Modernity On Endless Trial

Leszek Kolakowski came of age under the Nazi occupation of Poland, when the usual Polish school system was suspended and an underground network of tutors and impromptu teachers took on the responsibility of educating Poland’s youth and passing on Polish […]

Philip Roth’s American Pastoral

Philip Roth passed away late last month, some six years after officially retiring from fiction writing, and the deluge of tributes and commentary, reflections and reminiscences, give some indication of what his life meant for American letters. America in the […]