Category Archives: Books

On Second Thought

A while back I expressed some cynicism regarding JRR Tolkien’s son’s decision to publish his father’s never-before-seen translation of Beowulf: When I hear that an author’s estate is about to publish a work that the author never considered publishing, I … Continue reading

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Please let the answer be yes

Grantland asks “Are We at Peak Superhero?“: Even as they dominate the box office, comic-book movies are approaching a moment fraught with peril. If one definition of a bubble is that everybody with an investment to protect insists that it … Continue reading

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“snuffling in baffled rage”

To buy or not to buy? Almost 90 years after JRR Tolkien translated the 11th-century poem Beowulf, The Lord of the Rings author’s version of the epic story is to be published for the first time in an edition which … Continue reading

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Inside Information

If you’re thinking about seeing Peter Jackson’s latest Hobbit installment, don’t. It is essentially a 2 1/2-hour, loud, obnoxious, and incredibly tedious string of ridiculous action scenes that bears little if any relation to anything Tolkien wrote, and which serves … Continue reading

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Atwood on Eggers on Privacy

Been a busy week, and I’m a bit crunched for time today. Here’s Margaret Atwood reviewing David Eggers’ new novel, The Circle, in NYROB : Marshall McLuhan was among the first to probe the effects of different kinds of media … Continue reading

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Looking Past the T&A

Writing in The New York Review of Books, Daniel Mendelsohn convincingly argues that Game of Thrones, for all its raunchy sex scenes and seemingly exploitative female nudity, is essentially a feminist epic: The two girls represent two paths—one traditional, one … Continue reading

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And now back to our regularly scheduled programming

Readers of PYM already know i’m a big fan of the author Marilynne Robinson. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find an essay/profile on Robinson in The American Conservative. Here’s an excerpt: Yet Robinson grounds her liberalism in her Calvinist … Continue reading

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Beginnings XIV

While home with my family for the Jewish new year, I came across a copy of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath. The prologue to the book, which is an explanation and a defense of the importance of the Sabbath to … Continue reading

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From Graves to Heaney to Benfey

One of the greatest pleasures of reading, whether it’s non-fiction, fiction or poetry, is tracing the influences/conversations/debates that span across generations. Here’s the poet Christopher Benfey recalling a lesson he received from Seamus Heaney (who passed away over the weekend): … Continue reading

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Sci-Fi minus the robots

Jon Michaud writes in The New Yorker about the continuing relevance of Frank Herbert’s Dune series and its precarious place in the science fiction cannon: Perhaps one explanation for “Dune” ’s lack of true fandom among science-fiction fans is the absence … Continue reading

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Beginnings XIII

The Forgiven, by Lawrence Osborne, begins as follows: They didn’t see Africa until half past eleven.  Thje mists broke apart and motorboats with European millionaires came swooping out of the blue with Sotogrande flags and a flash of tumblers.  The migrants on … Continue reading

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The New Illiterates

In May of 1973, Gore Vidal reviewed the ten books on the NY Times’ best-seller list, and theorized that the writers of these books were far too influenced by the Hollywood films of their youth: The bad movies we made … Continue reading

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On the Beach

D.C. has settled into typical spring/summer weather – low 90’s and humid as hell.  Of course, assuming you don’t mind spending 5 hours in traffic each way, you can always head to the beach. Was thinking that if anyone ever gets … Continue reading

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Book Miscellanea

1)  The New York Times is celebrating “A Century of Proust.” 2) NYRB reviews Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life by Jonathan Sperber. 3) Over the weekend, I finished John Le Carre’s Our Kind of Traitor.  While it doesn’t compare to … Continue reading

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The Play’s the Thing

The American Scholar has a fascinating article on Abraham Lincoln and his appreciation of the plays of William Shakespeare.  Here’s an excerpt: After Hackett performed before the president, he sent Lincoln a copy of a book he had just published, … Continue reading

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Time of the Season

Writing in the London Review of Books, John Lanchester considers the popular appeal of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series  (Note: while the excerpt below contains no real spoilers, the linked article contains many): So the … Continue reading

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Scamming Nabokov

Edward Jay Epstein recalls taking a college European Lit course taught by none other than Vladimir Nabokov: Unfortunately, distracted by the gorges, lakes, movie houses, corridor dates, and other more local enchantments of Ithaca, I did not get around to … Continue reading

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Beginnings XII

Famed Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has passed away.  He is most well known for his novel Things Fall Apart.  Achebe has described the novel as a response to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  Here’s how it begins: Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages … Continue reading

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