Thomas Lynch’s The Undertaking

Poet and undertaker – you could hardly imagine two more unlikely or unusual occupations. And yet, the more you think on it, the deeper the connections between them appear to be: both jobs are concerned with sanctifying and memorializing, building imaginary […]

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

I have read no Jane Austen since high school, when no doubt a boyish prejudice prevented me from fully appreciating or understanding what I was reading, but I return to her now with – one hopes –greater maturity and appreciation. […]

William Giraldi’s American Audacity

Given that I am reviewing a collection of essays entitled American Audacity, let me begin by being audacious: there are perhaps two or three English-language critics alive today who are the equal of William Giraldi – in judgment, depth of […]

Kenneth Minogue’s On Liberty And Its Enemies

Nowhere have I found a more perspicacious diagnosis of our modern malaise than in the writings of Kenneth Minogue, a New Zealand-born political philosopher who spent more than a decade of his life teaching at the London School of Economics. […]

Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man

Are we reliving the 1930s? Many commentators, not all of them hysterical, would have us believe so. The catastrophe of the COVID-19 epidemic has brought the global economy to a standstill, and the scramble for vital drugs and medical supplies […]

Edward Dahlberg’s Because I Was Flesh

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the most stirring and original memoir I have ever read is also the strangest. Surprisingly, it is not really a memoir at all, despite purporting to be the “autobiography” of its author, Edward Dahlberg. It is instead a […]

David Gelernter’s America-Lite

David Gelernter came to my attention in 2016, when he authored a provocative Wall Street Journal column on “Trump and the Emasculated Voter,” endorsing the former reality television star’s unlikely (and ultimately successful) bid for the Oval Office. The column […]

E.L. Doctorow’s Billy Bathgate

I don’t recall the last time a novel so instantaneously grabbed me, from the opening page, and held me in captivated, rapturous awe for 300 pages. E.L. Doctorow, who passed away in 2015, wrote Billy Bathgate in 1989, but it […]

Stephen Spender’s World Within World

Prior to picking up his only memoir, World Within World, I had little prior exposure to Stephen Spender. I knew him to be a poet, probably from some anthology I read as a teenager, but could not have named even […]

James Q. Wilson’s Thinking About Crime

I ordered Thinking About Crime, a once-influential assemblage of the writings of famed political scientist James Q. Wilson, before the brutal killing of an unarmed, restrained black man by a white police officer toppled COVID-19 from atop its pillar in […]

Philip Short’s Pol Pot: Anatomy Of A Nightmare

I recently came across an article published in a scientific journal nearly a decade ago that warned that the 2020s, in the United States, might be a time of revolutionary fervor. The article purported to analyze the factors that made […]

Derek Raymond’s The Devil’s Home On Leave

I had to search out the second novel in Derek Raymond’s Factory series, for though the whole pentalogy was reissued at the start of the last decade, it has once again fallen out of print. That should not be taken […]

Seamus Heaney’s Opened Ground: Poems, 1966-1996

In my memory, Seamus Heaney only died very recently, but I see now, as I research his life, that it has been seven long years since he passed away. I still remember where I was when I heard the news, […]

Yukio Mishima’s Confessions Of A Mask

Published in 1949 in Japan but translated into English only in 1958, Confessions Of A Mask, Mishima’s second novel, both captivated and scandalized international audiences. The book is entirely dominated by the opinions and perceptions of Kochan, its narrator-protagonist, who […]

Eric Newby’s A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush

In 1956, a decorated British veteran of World War II named Eric Newby abruptly quit his job in a women’s clothing store to travel to, and attempt to climb, the mountains of Nuristan, Afghanistan, specifically the supposedly unscalable Mir Samir. […]