Robert Walser’s Jakob von Gunten

Robert Walser is one of the 20th century’s forgotten masters. Born in Biel, Switzerland, in 1878, the seventh of eight children, to an unstable mother and a father who struggled to make a living as a bookbinder, Walser’s formal schooling […]

John W. Dower’s Embracing Defeat

John W. Dower is an American historian and former “Ford International Professor of History” at MIT, best known for his 1999 work Embracing Defeat: Japan In The Wake Of World War II, which won nearly every award for which it […]

Joseph Massey’s Illocality

Joseph Massey is an American poet possessed with rare and authentic talent. He came to my attention two years ago, when he published a personal essay in Quillette about his experience of being “cancelled,” of having his reputation tarred and […]

Robert Putnam’s Our Kids

The most consequential shift in American family life after World War II occurred entirely along class lines, handicapping children born to growing numbers of lower- and middle-class parents in ways that would have been considered shocking and unacceptable to every […]

Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881

The concluding book of Joseph Frank’s magisterial five-volume Dostoevsky biography picks up where the last left off: Dostoevsky has returned to Russia from extended European travels, designed to give him temporary relief from his financial obligations. He has published three […]

Jason Manning’s Suicide: The Social Causes of Self-Destruction

Suicide is a fascinating subject, any way you look at it. What prompts someone to take their own life? Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” the most famous lines in English literature, speak to the central importance of the […]

Tina Rosenberg’s Children Of Cain

One of the most haunting pieces of long-form journalism I’ve ever read was produced by the Wall Street Journal and written by David Luhnow, bearing the simple but effective title “Latin America Is the Murder Capital of the World.” It’s […]

Norman Lewis’ Naples ’44

I owe to Curzio Malaparte my introduction to the sufferings inflicted on the people of Naples in 1944, the year the Allies liberated it from Nazi occupation. His book The Skin is a semi-fictionalized account of that proud city’s descent […]

Aris Roussinos’ Rebels

For some years now, I have enjoyed the writings of Aris Roussinos, a former war reporter turned opinion writer with a particular interest in the lifecycles of civilizations, the blindspots of modern liberalism, and the barriers and pathways to cultural […]

Dwight Macdonald’s Masscult And Midcult

Literary reputations seem to rise and fall with the tides. Consider the fate of Dwight Macdonald, former staple of Time, The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, and once a force in America’s mid-century intellectual scene. He […]

Rowan Williams’ Dostoevsky: Language, Faith & Fiction

Rowan Williams is the former Archbishop of Canterbury, whose tenure from December 2002 to December 2012 saw him presiding over royal weddings and various controversies involving the Church of England’s position on gay marriage or the ordination of female priests. […]

Christopher Caldwell’s The Age Of Entitlement

The thesis of journalist Christopher Caldwell’s latest book is painful but simple: America’s polarization stems from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which did not just amend or augment the original American constitution, but inaugurated a “rival constitution,” that undermined […]

Peter De Vries’ Slouching Towards Kalamazoo

Both the title and accompanying illustration hint at the comic nature of Peter De Vries’ Slouching Towards Kalamazoo (1983). The slouching is mainly done by Anthony Thrasher, a precocious reader and indifferent student, already held back one grade for his […]

Patrick J. Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed

Much ink has been spilled since 2016 on the subject of liberalism’s demise, but nothing I have yet read surpasses Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed (2018) in insightfulness or force of argument. In measured language, and with requisite restraint, Deneen […]

Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea

Every new foray I make into the works of Yukio Mishima, Japan’s worst-kept literary secret, expands my appreciation for him as a writer of great conviction. He was a man at odds with his time, a vocal critic of post-war […]