Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran

On the syllabus of a class on Shakespeare I took in university, my professor had written, about Hamlet, that his character “is often taken as the highest representation of the human experience, albeit one that is white, upperclass and male.” Her proviso, […]

Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works

My second foray into the works of Steven Pinker, Harvard professor and cognitive scientist, is his 1997 bestseller How the Mind Works, an ambitious attempt to synthesize competing theories of not only how the mind works – how thoughts and emotions […]

A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad and Other Poems

Alfred Edward Housman, born in England on the 26th of March, 1859, was a classical scholar of the highest calibre and a beloved minor poet. His relatively small poetic output focuses on themes of loss, particularly of life and love, […]

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables has, for some months now, sat on my bedside table, its 1200 page monolithic mass obscuring my alarm clock and thus confronting me, every morning, with the fact that I had not yet read one of history’s most […]

Martin Amis’ Visiting Mrs Nabokov and Other Excursions

I must begin by giving thanks to my brother, Kenneth, for the gift of this book, my first foray into Amis’ writings; few gifts are better than a well-chosen book, and, for me at least, none more welcome. Visiting Mrs […]

Some Words on John Milton

In the parlance of today’s academic culture, John Milton is not just a “dead white male,” he is the dead white male, epitomizing all of the pejoratives this neologism connotes: his works are archaic, stylistically and syntactically complex, and long and dense […]

Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

This book was something of an aberration for me: what I read and when is usually the product of much forethought and careful selection out of an ever-growing, increasingly threatening pile of books atop my writing desk. Prior to purchasing […]

Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives

In 1998, Roberto Bolaño published Los Detectives Salvajes and unwittingly catapulted himself into the literary limelight, winning the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize the following year, one of the most prestigious and lucrative of the world’s literary prizes. Nearly a decade would pass […]

Why Read Shakespeare?

We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things […]

In Memoriam – Christopher Hitchens

Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if […]