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

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 […]

Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

Consider, for a moment, the place that the Holocaust occupies in our collective memory. The mere mention of the word conjures in our minds death camps and gas chambers, emaciated corpses and living skeletons starved for food. No single event […]

Robert Conquest’s The Harvest Of Sorrow

For a brief moment, in 1917, the Russian peasantry could be optimistic about its future. With the overthrow of the tsar, Russia’s large estates were seized by peasant farmers: “108 million acres were taken from 110,000 landlords,” to the point […]

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Demons

In university and in the many years since my graduation, I have had the repeated and uncomfortable experience of encountering human beings incapable of uttering an original thought. Otherwise intelligent, rational people, once confronted with a given political or philosophical […]

Virginia Woolf’s The Moment And Other Essays

In the last three or four years of trawling used book stores, estate sales and library fundraisers, no single find has been more felicitous than a complete set of Virginia Woolf’s essays, in such pristine condition as if they had […]

Clarice Lispector’s Complete Stories

Not even five years ago now, the name of Clarice Lispector was everywhere. A new biography and English translations of her most popular works were rescuing her from a provincial obscurity her talent was always destined to transcend, finding her […]

Russell Kirk’s The Roots Of American Order

Conservative philosopher Russell Kirk’s opus on American “order” appeared in 1974, a year of remarkable disorder: Vietnam divided the nation, university protests disrupted classes and frequently drew the attentions of the National Guard, and Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. The […]