The title of Nathaniel Philbrick’s slim new meditation foregrounds the questions at the heart of every assignment made by every English teacher: Why read this book? Or that book? For that matter, why do we assign reading in the first place?
This meditation on faith's fragility could not come at a better time. At once deeply personal and profound in its feel for how our culture settles into our hearts and minds, it puts to shame the sectarian champions of the culture wars, waged against "secular elites," and it confounds the academic experts who miss the religious resonance of our worldly experience.
Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature
In his introduction, Joseph Epstein offers a broad definition of literary genius: “Timelessness, grandeur of vision, originality of outlook—all these in concert and worked at a high power comprise genius in the writer.” Literary artists till some of the same fields of human experience that are staked
Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America
In Martin Clark’s novel Plain Heathen Mischief, the Reverend Joel King has a problem that is endemic not only to southern preachers but to pastors in general: “The trick, Joel came to realize, was how to differentiate between heaven-sent persuasion and his own wish list, how to separate holy mar
In the Light of Christ: Writings in the Western Tradition
Great works in the Western literary tradition are incomprehensible apart from Christianity. One cannot understand Dante, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Coleridge, Dostoevsky or Dickinson without understanding the Christian faith that these writers assumed, professed or resisted.
Trapped on a plane on a runway in Atlanta the other evening, I had three hours to catch up on back issues of the Times Literary Supplement. Instinctively, I looked for M.E.M.O material. There on the runway I encountered some memorable aspects of some memorable characters, each of which would be worthy of comment. I offer here some highlights.
Dead from the Waist Down: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and the Popular Imagination
When such luminaries as Harold Bloom, Frank Kermode and John Hollander prepare the way for a book by calling it “thoroughly alive and enlivening,” “all the pleasure I expected” and “a major work of scholarship and of imaginative thought,” prudence warns me to mute my more tepid opinion.<
When the Harry Potter movie is released this fall, long lines at theaters are sure to provoke yet more speculation about the popularity of J. K. Rowling’s novels (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).