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

Irving Layton’s A Wild Peculiar Joy

Irving Layton, perhaps Canada’s most acclaimed poet, was born Israel Pincu Lazarovitch, in Romania, to Jewish parents. Within a year of his birth, however, the entire family migrated to Montreal, in Catholic Quebec, creating the identity crisis that would shape him […]

Joby Warrick’s Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS

There is a wonderfully human moment recounted in the early pages of Joby Warrick’s Black Flags, a history of the terrorist group ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria): a would-be jihadist, sent into an adult movie theatre by his […]

Kenneth Slawenski’s J.D. Salinger: A Life

There is an Internet axiom known as the Streisand effect, which states that any attempt to hide, censor or prevent the spread of information or ideas inevitably ends up drawing greater attention to the subject in question. The tragedy of […]

Heather Mac Donald’s The Burden Of Bad Ideas

American society has been increasingly influenced by a small number of men and women from a rarefied social and educational background. Through education, politics, journalism and the media, a clique of intellectuals shape opinion and evolve policies that impact millions […]

Rick Moody’s Purple America

The opening scene of Rick Moody’s Purple America involves a son bathing his mother, told in just two sentences. The first reads: “Whosoever knows the folds and complexities of his own mother’s body, he shall never die.” The next sentence […]

James Salter’s Burning The Days

Not for the first time, I have read the memoirs of a novelist whose fiction is unknown to me, though in the case of James Salter this is perhaps excusable, as he would himself concede that his books are more […]

Henry James’ Short Fiction

It seems to me somewhat misleading to speak of the “short fiction” of Henry James, given that the average story in this collection exceeds 100 pages, with one approaching 200 – perhaps novella is the preferred term, though James himself referred to […]

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (Selected Stories)

Literature’s most famous sleuth has so penetrated the popular imagination that few people first encounter him in his original form, as envisioned nearly 150 years ago by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Radio, film and television adaptations of the Holmes stories […]

Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying Of Lot 49

I see, by my inscription inside the front cover, that it has been five years to the month since my first reading of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, and I am happy to report that a second reading has […]

Jane Gardam’s Old Filth

During Britain’s most boastful period, when the sun never set on her Empire, many soldiers, diplomats and dignitaries working abroad sent their young children home to England, to be raised by relatives. Rudyard Kipling was one of these “Raj Orphans,” […]