Berfrois

The Appearance of Goodness

The Appearance of Goodness

There are many social-media-savvy people who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion, who can fluidly pontificate on Twitter about kindness but are unable to actually show kindness...

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Winning Words

Winning Words

Tennyson in the London 2012 Olympic village From Literary Review: They are putting Tennyson up in the Olympic village. Last year, the final line of ‘Ulysses‘ – ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’ – prevailed in a public competition to select ‘Winning Words’, which means...

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Sphere Within Sphere

Sphere Within Sphere

Anita Desai by James Warner In The Artist of Disappearance, Anita Desai meditates on the private and fragile nature of the creative act. Her nostalgic visions of India are also parables of the self’s search for authenticity. Anita Desai’s work has often shown us the remnants of a glorious...

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The Cult of Chuck by Daniel Roberts

The Cult of Chuck by Daniel Roberts

A smart friend, who nonetheless doesn’t often find time to read for pleasure, asked me recently if I had read any Chuck Palahniuk before. I sure have. And for whatever reason, the question of where to get started with this specific author is one that I’ve been asked quite...

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Daniel Roberts: DFW at Brown

Daniel Roberts: DFW at Brown

David Foster Wallace by Daniel Roberts There’s this thing that happens to people who read David Foster Wallace, the novelist and essayist who would have turned 50 years old today. It’s the reason his literary reputation so fervently exploded the moment he died: those who like his work don’t...

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Thomas Travisano on Robert Lowell

Thomas Travisano on Robert Lowell

One suspects that just as Lowell drew out of Bishop—in her effort to engage and entertain him—a previously unforeseen willingness to indulge in literary shoptalk and to reflect on the theatre of ideas, Bishop drew out of Lowell—in his effort to engage and entertain her—a capacity for lively and...

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Jonathan Lear: Isn’t It, Don’t You Think?

Jonathan Lear: Isn’t It, Don’t You Think?

Crow Indians, photograph by David F. Barry, c.1878 by Jonathan Lear On the face of it, a conception does not seem the sort of thing it is easy to lose. If we think of our life with concepts in terms of our ways of going on, categorizing and thinking about...

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Waste Paper

Waste Paper

‘Terse As Virulent Hermaphrodites’: Middlebrow Representations of Modernist Poets in the 1920s   by George Simmers Based on a  paper given at the conference on ‘The Popular Imagination and the Dawn of Modernism’, at the Institute of English Studies, University of London, 15 September, 2011. In P.G. Wodehouse’s 1925...

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Admiring Tolkien

Admiring Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien From The New Yorker: At Oxford in the nineteen-forties, Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was generally considered the most boring lecturer around, teaching the most boring subject known to man, Anglo-Saxon philology and literature, in the most boring way imaginable. “Incoherent and often inaudible” was...

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Beckett’s Fear of the Other Side

Beckett’s Fear of the Other Side

Samuel Beckett, Avigdor Arikha, 1971 From London Review of Books: At the turning point of this second volume of Beckett’s letters, which is also the turning point of his professional life, the moment when, after so many years of ‘retyping … for rejection’, his best work is finally to...

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Fed

Fed

On a big platter in the middle of the full table sits the fat novel, its dust jacket a cracking bronze, peeling at the edges, its pages sliced and curling, its story stuffed with, well, stuffing: characters mixed with plot in a warm, moist setting, everyone talking at once,...

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Infinitely Gentle

Infinitely Gentle

His polite moments, which were frequent if often implausible (he denied reading quickly, being widely read, being “an especially fluid writer”) were all the more absurd given how caustic he could be.

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Martha White on E. B. White

Martha White on E. B. White

In July 1969, New York Times journalist Israel Shenker had managed to persuade White to be interviewed at his farmhouse in Maine, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. It was rare for my grandfather to consent to such a request and the interview had not gone well.

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Gloria Nne Onyeoziri: African Irony

Gloria Nne Onyeoziri: African Irony

From the cover of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, 1959 edition   by Gloria Nne Onyeoziri Some Igbo people say that the millipede that is stepped on keeps quiet while its aggressor is the one to complain. They are not only leveling the playing field of the power to...

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Theodore Ziolkowski on Gilgamesh

Theodore Ziolkowski on Gilgamesh

The Slaying of the Bull of Ishtar, from Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, illustrated by Ernest Wallcousins, 1915 by Theodore Ziolkowski Any ten minute search on the internet turns up hundreds of hits for Gilgamesh in recent years. Apart from novels, plays, poems, operas, and paintings, the ancient Babylonian...

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Yo Borges

Yo Borges

by Jon Beasley-Murray What does it mean to “read Borges”? What are we even endeavoring to read? “Borges” is a cipher: a proper name that stands in for a set of texts with which that name is associated. It’s a figure or speech or language, a form of metonymy:...

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