Category » Book Reviews

True wit is Nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed;
Something whose truth convinced at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.
-Alexander Pope

William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days

To begin with, a confession: I have an abiding fear of the ocean. That fear has not prevented me from swimming in ocean waters – albeit close to the shores – or venturing out in boats of various sizes, either […]

Michel Houellebecq’s Platform

I am not a superstitious person, nor do I have any faith in the supernatural, but I believe some rare figures throughout history have had the gift of prophecy. Doubtless their fortunetelling owes more to some heightened intellectual sensitivity than […]

Mircea Eliade’s A History Of Religious Ideas (Vol.2)

For most of my adult life, I have had no use or patience for religion. I was raised outside of the church, never inducted into any religious tradition, and therefore – like so many of my generation – I came […]

Stephen Smith’s The Scramble For Europe

Stephen Smith’s La Ruée Vers L’Europe was the talk of Paris upon its publication in France last year, and it is poised to be no less explosive in the English-speaking world after the June release of the English translation, The […]

Paul Auster’s Winter Journal

Given pages enough, and time, how would you organize the story of your life? Would you begin sensibly, that is to say, chronologically, from infancy into adulthood? Or would you perhaps single out the most impactful moments, the most important […]

Nikos Kazantzakis’ Zorba The Greek

One of the oldest of our mythological dichotomies is between the rational, contemplative Apollonian and the sensuous, emotive Dionysian. In literature, the former are more often brooding melancholics, patterned on Prince Hamlet, while the latter are typically depicted as Falstaffian […]

G.K. Chesterton’s In Defense Of Sanity: Selected Essays

Sanity is today in short supply. The shortage makes itself visible in the men and women we elect to high office, as well as in the media class charged with reporting on them. It’s increasingly visible in our universities, supposed […]

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 […]