January 22, 2012


Samuel Beckett, The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume II: 1941-1956, edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn & Lois More Overbeck (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2011) (See Denis Donoghue, "Midgame," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/30/2011.).

Harold Bloom, The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2011) ("For those to whom the KJM is the Truth, rock of their faith, a literary appreciation is redundant. I write however for the common reader, who can be moved by the Bible's eloquence and beauty. Originally the culmination of one strand of Renaissance English culture, the KJB became a basic source of American literature: Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson are its children, and so are William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy. The KJM and Shakespeare fuse into a style of language that enabled the emergence of Leaves of Grass, Moby-Dick, As I Lay Dying, Blood Meridian. Whitman's verse and Hemingway's prose alike stem from the KJB." "It should in time seem odd to speak of 'the Bible as literature' as to say 'Shakespeare as literature.' Shakespeare is literature, as are the Bible, Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Montaigne, Milton, Proust, Joyce. Literature, in this high sense, is the Blessing: it represents the fullness of life and can give more life If you read the KJB as revelation then no one can gainsay you. I myself address the common reader who quests for more life." Id. at 23.).

Ian Brown, The Boy in the Moon (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011) (selected by the editors of NYT Book Review as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2011).

Sarah Foot, AEthelstan: The First King of England (Yale English Monarchs) (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2011) ("Collectively, his later law codes suggest that AEthelstan had clear ideas about what he wanted to achieve for the better governance of his realm through legislation, specifically which social problems he sought to ameliorate. In these texts, we see the King tackling directly issues that arose from the recent unification of heterogeneous peoples and devising strategies to repair the ills left in parts of the country following decades of warfare. AEthelstan may well have had the councils of Charlemagne and his successors in mind as models. To the kings mind, theft constituted the greatest single problem and represented the most significant manifestation of social breakdown across the realm. He legislated repeatedly--even disproportionately--in his law codes for the prevention of thievery, making this topic one of the most striking feature so his legal pronouncements: together, his codes contain one third of all the occurrences of the noun peof (thief) in the entire corpus of Anglo-Saxon law." Id. at 140.).

Christopher Hitchens, Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (New York: Twelve, 2011) (selected by the editors of NYT Book Review as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2011).

Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital: A Commentary on Volume One (London & New York: Verso, 2011).

Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfiction, Etc. (New York: Doubleday, 2011) (See Robert Christgau, "Enthusiasms," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/20011.).

Gail Levin, Lee Krasner: A Biography (New York: Morrow, 2011).

David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (New York: Harper, 2007) (In the 1960s, "[a]s doubt and distrust crept into people's lives, Schulz's plain commentaries on the comics pages and in Determined Productions' small, square hardcovers set him up for a role he never intended or wanted. 'I'm not a philosopher.' he insisted, sometimes adding, 'I'm not that well-educated.' But the country had just reached the end of an era in which it considered itself the land that boasted the world's most distinguished philosophers. For thirty years, every high school principal read professor John Dewey, or thought he ought to, and every college president salted his speeches with the aphorisms of George Santayana. ("Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it') and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. ('Taxes are what we pay for civilized society'). But the era of Professor Santayana, Justice Holmes, and Dr. Dewey was closing, and middlebrow culture reassigned the role of philosopher. Henceforth, the general public would take philosophy in capsule form through novelists (Hemingway, Vonnegut), journalists (Kempton, Baker), social scientists (McLuhan, Galbraith), and cartoonists (Capp, Kelly, Schulz), although Al Capp and Walt Kelly were drawing allegory that tartly commented on politics and society, and Schulz was creating the kind of myth in which everyone could find his or her own story: 'Myths and fables of deep American ordinariness,' as the writer Samuel Hynes construed Peanuts." Id. at 394. From the bookjacket: "It is the most American of stories: How a barber's son grew up from modest beginnings to realize his dream of creating a newspaper comic strip. How he daringly chose themes never before attempted in mainstream cartoons--loneliness, isolation, melancholy, the unending search for love--always lightening the darker side with laughter and mingling the old-fashioned sweetness of childhood with a very adult and modern awareness of the bitterness of life. And, how using a lightheaded, loving touch, a crow-quill pen dipped in ink, and a cast of memorable characters, he portrayed the struggles that come with being awkward, imperfect, human.").

Czeslaw Milosz, To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays, edited and with an introduction by Bogdana Carpenter & Madeline G. Levine (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2001).

Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1989).

Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith, Van Gogh: The Life (New York: Random House, 2011) (See Deborah Solomon, "Splendor in the Stars," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).

Stanislao G. Pugliese, Bitter Spting: A Life of Ignazio Silone (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009).

Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2011) ("Since the nineteenth century, it has been the task of the left to hold up to liberal civilization a mirror of its highest values and to say, 'You do not look like this.' You claim to believe in the rights of man, but it is only the rights of property you uphold. You claim to stand for freedom, but it is only the freedom of the strong to dominate the weak. If you wish to live up to your principles, you must give way to their demiurge. Allow the dispossessed to assume power, and the ideal will be made real, the metaphor will be made material." Id. at 95).

Charles J. Shields, And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (New York: Henry Holt, 2011) (See Christopher Buckley, "How It Went," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).

John Updike, Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism (New York: Knopf, 2011) (From 'In Defense of the Amateur Reader: Remarks upon Accepting the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, for Hugging the Shore, in January 1984.': "A man who reads a book for no particular profit becomes, while he reads, a gentleman, a man of leisure, a dandy of a sort, one would hate to see this dandyman entirely squelched, whether by the analytical mills of the universities or by the scarcely less grim purveying of animated information and automated thrills reflected by the best-seller lists. An occasional sport, a White Hotel or Name of the Rose, does show up in these lists to remind us that a certain whimsy, an ineluctable hankering for the elegant and unclassifiable, does persist in the soul of that rough beast, the book-buying public; but in general the list is all to predictable, and the industry as a whole is all too dependent upon the list, This potentially mirthless situation we self-appointed critics--and who will appoint us if not ourselves?--can ameliorate by being, within measure, self-amusing, by indulging our own tastes and pursuing our own educations, by seeking out the underpublished wallflower on the edge of the dance floor and giving here a twirl, by reminding ourselves that literary delights are rarefied delights, that today's blockbuster is tomorrow's insulation, that books are at best beacon in the darkness but at second best a holiday that lasts and lasts." Id. at 423-424.).

John Updike, More Matter: Essays and Criticism (New York: Knopf, 1999).

Christa Wolf, The Author's Dimension: Selected Essays, edited by Alexander Stephan, translated from the German by Jan Van Heurck, and with an introduction by Grace Paley (New York; Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993) (From "Contribution to the Second Bitterfeld Conference": "I believe that a trapeze artist has to work with a rope, a safety belt, and a net. But a writer, in whatever field, cannot work with net. He simply has to accept a little risk, tempered by responsibility." Id. at 3, 10. I think this is why so much writing by legal academics leaves me cold. So much of it is written with too much caution, not wanting to risk offending the hierarchy. And, written with a failure to take responsibility in the take of advancing ideas. From "The Shadow of a Dream: A Sketch of Karoline von Gunderrode": "Gunderrode's generation, like all who live in transitional periods, had to create new patterns which later generations would use as models, stencils, warning slogans, in literature as in life. These people who were young in 1800 were made an example from which others might learn, or fail to learn. For them, the existing examples did not apply. . . . " "They were few in number. Their forerunners, the ideologists and protagonists of the French Revolution, took as their models the ancient Romans, used-up, misinterpreted attitudes: they deceived themselves so as to be able to act. The later generation shed their togas along with their sense of mission, their heroes' roles along with their self-deception. In the mirror they met their own faces, un-made-up and unasked-for. These who were young in 1800 could not arrange to be born a later year, nor could they think the thoughts or live the lives of an older generation. They could not deny the particular features which determined them, the grueling features The bourgeois society which i the end spread to the German side o the Rhine without need of revolution admittedly gave rise to no starkly new economic and social order, but did bring a pervasive petit-bourgeois morality based on the suppression of everything uncompromising and original. It was an unequal struggle. A small group if intellectuals with no backup force (as happened so often in German history form the Peasants' War onward)---supporting an out-of-favor ideal with a sensibility attuned to nuances and a headstrong desire to put their newly developed skills to use--ran head-on into the narrowness of an underdeveloped class characterized by subservience instead of self-esteem, and which had absorbed nothing of the bourgeois catechism except the commandment: Get rich! This petit-bourgeois class tried to harmonize the boundless instinct for profit with the Lutheran-Calvinist virtue of industry, thrift, and discipline; the poverty of their lives blinded them to their real needs, while making them hypersensitive to those who would not or could not be made to keep silent. Thus the little group of intellectuals became strangers in their own land, forerunners whom no one followed, enthusiasts who evoked no response, callers without an echo. And those among them who could not make the timely compromise became victims." "Don't think they did not know it. . . . " Id. at 131, 133-134.).