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And, reading Wilderness, I was reminded of something I had run across years ago, in a discussion, as I recall, of Elizabethan poetry, that claimed as how, in love poetry, the particular object of the poet’s love, though composed of a particular set of eyes and brows and rosebud lips, becomes a universal sign and […]

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A couple of years ago, while substitute-teaching at the school that is so fond of Finding Forrester, I found, in the English office, a copy of Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted. Great stuff, but I didn’t get to finish it until two weeks ago. It’s an impressionistic account of the author’s two years in a mental […]

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How many of us believe the recent study claiming that Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica were equally accurate? I certainly don’t, because every time I have gone to look up something on Wikipedia that I already have a good deal of knowledge about, I find at least one error. Still, I am addicted to the […]

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I hereby confess that I have a natural aversion to best-sellers. My feeling is that in order to become hugely popular, art can’t be very demanding and that it probably panders to a low common denominator and that it probably has something fundamentally wrong with it. If my own work ever hits the best-seller lists, […]

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Continuing my impossible dream of reading every piece of fiction the world has ever considered important, I have given up once again on John Dos Passos, this time after about fifty of the fourteen hundred or so pages that make up the U.S.A. trilogy. The tragedy, for me, of Dos Passos is that some of […]

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In my quest for Spanish literature, I read a mildly interesting thing the other day by Javier Cercas that would have made a good short story. Unfortunately, he stretched it out to three hundred and four pages. It was called La velocitad de la luz (The Speed of Light), which was kind of funny because […]

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Winston Churchill once characterized Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” What would he have made of Vladimir Nabokov? A great prose stylist, but what did he mean by it all? In interviews, when asked about the meaning of his work, he would vehemently deny any meaning at all. He claimed […]

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In the past week I’ve gotten two virtually identical comments from readers of The Great American Desert: Beautiful writing, but where’s the plot? I may have it engraved on my headstone. What do people want anyway? An adventure story? There are lots of true adventure stories out there. There are history books, too, and biographies. […]

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Allowing your characters to ignore the law of gravity doesn’t always lead to postmodernism. Sometimes it just indicates sloppy writing. In the novel I’m currently reading, Journey to the End of the Night, which is by Louis-Ferdinand Celine and which came recommended by Jack Kerouac, I can’t figure out what it indicates. The book started […]

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