Edward St. Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk

Time passes even more quickly for Patrick Melrose, the eponymous hero of Edward St. Aubyn’s justly celebrated Patrick Melrose quintet of novels, than it does in real life. When we first met him, he was just five years old, an […]

Carlos Fuentes’ This I Believe

There is an entire sub-species of autobiography, generally written in the twilight of a man’s life, when he knows that the best is behind him and all that remains is the terrifying silence of death. Nothing focuses the mind quite […]

Chantal Delsol’s Icarus Fallen

The French philosopher Chantal Delsol, in the first of her books to appear in English translation, presents us with an arresting metaphor for the condition of 21st century man, caught between the certainties of the past and the uncertainty of […]

Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Early Years

We end at the beginning. The third and final volume of Reiner Stach’s ambitious biography, Kafka: The Early Years, takes a look at the period between birth and early adulthood, encompassing Kafka’s childhood struggles for recognition within his family, his […]

Dan Simmons’ The Terror

In 1845, two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, set out from Britain as part of a naval expedition to discover and chart the Northwest Passage, a sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic Ocean. […]

Oriana Fallaci’s The Rage And The Pride

In Europe, the late Oriana Fallaci needs no introduction, but North American readers might benefit from a primer: she was a member of an Italian resistance movement during the Second World War; a celebrated journalist, whose coverage of the Vietnam […]

Edward St. Aubyn’s Some Hope

It occurred to me only retrospectively that the third book in Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series is the first to employ a sincere title. The first book, Never Mind, culminates in the rape of the young Patrick Melrose by his […]

Christopher Lasch’s The Culture Of Narcissism

One of the surest signs of impending old age manifests itself as a frustration with modern culture and a conviction that not only film and music were better in some halcyon past, but people, too. By that standard, I have […]

Edward St. Aubyn’s Bad News

Bad News, the second of Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, gives us our first glimpse of the titular protagonist as an adult. He is in his mid-twenties now, and rapidly blowing through a large inheritance to feed an extravagant […]

Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander

Appended to the front of my edition of Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander, the first in his celebrated Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels taking place during the Napoleonic Wars, is a diagram of a “square-rigged ship,” characteristic of the era, with […]