John Cheever’s The Wapshot Chronicle

The Wapshot Chronicle was John Cheever’s first published novel and established many of the themes he would become known for: the disconnect between a character’s private and public life, the sense of community fostered by small towns vs. the anomie and […]

William Hazlitt’s Selected Writings

William Hazlitt was a 19th century political radical, art and theater critic, amateur philosopher and lover of literature. He is also widely considered one of the greatest essayists to ever live, a judgement that jars uncomfortably with the fact that […]

Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater

Roth has a talent for provocation, amply testified to in his superb and uproarious Portnoy’s Complaint, and honed to devastating effect in Sabbath’s Theater. First, in the interests of intellectual honesty, a caveat: I abhor those critics who cannot honestly confront a […]

Zadie Smith’s On Beauty

In her collection of essays Changing My Mind, Zadie Smith describes a line delivered by the actress Katharine Hepburn in the movie The Philadelphia Story as being her lodestar for fiction writing: “The time to make up your mind about people is […]

Albert Camus’ The Plague

Albert Camus’ The Plague is the fictional account of a coastal Algerian town’s battle against a plague epidemic in an unspecified year in the 1940s. There are early warnings of an outbreak – rats surfacing from the sewers to die and numerous […]

Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems

Larkin is the most beloved English poet of the post-war era and a major influence on a wide community of writers, in prose and verse, on both sides of the Atlantic. Reading his Collected Poems, comprising his four publications The North Ship […]

Milan Kundera’s The Joke

First, an apposite quotation from Christopher Hitchens: “The struggle for a free intelligence has always been a struggle between the ironic and the literal mind.” The free intelligence (in truth, a tautology, but a useful one nonetheless) admits of no […]

Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Richard Feynman was America’s best-known theoretical physicist, a Nobel laureate and, according to a 1999 poll of 100 of the world’s most highly esteemed scientists, one of the ten greatest physicists to ever live. It is difficult to comprehend intellect […]

P.G. Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves

Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves, less a novel than a group of chronologically-linked short stories cobbled together into a coherent whole, is the third Wodehouse work I have read thus far, and the final in my particular compendium of Wodehouse’s “Jeeves stories.” […]

Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind

I am embarrassingly late to the works of Zadie Smith, having associated her with a younger generation of writers the literati seemed overly eager to promote. But then I read her essay on Kafka for the New York Review of Books, […]