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22 july 2014

A few years ago, Robert Baird asked in Slate "Why doesn't anyone read Dante's Paradiso?" Baird agrees with T.S. Eliot that "we have … a prejudice against beatitude as material for poetry." We assume that Heaven is boring. Trapped in our assumptions, we can't perceive the drama and the urgency of Dante's vision of salvation. Eliot and Baird make a good point, and Dante understood it, too. Again and again in the Comedy he slaps his forehead over people who prefer far lesser goals and pleasures to the beatific vision.     read more

18 july 2014

Olive's Ocean, a 2004 Newbery Honor novel by Kevin Henkes, takes familiar motifs and blends them in offbeat, astringent, satisfying ways.     read more

17 july 2014

Alone in the Crowd, by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, is a tightly-constructed little Krimi on existential themes. It's an homme-traqué plot with a Doppelgänger theme, and a variation on ideas by Poe. It also recalls Borges, and perhaps most of all Dürrenmatt's Richter und sein Henker, like Alone in the Crowd the tale of an aging police inspector shadowed by a fixated enemy.     read more

16 july 2014

Nicholas Wade's Troublesome Inheritance isn't worth the trouble. But it has attracted all kinds of attention, from rapture to scorn, and it doesn't seem right to dismiss such a book with a handwave. So I'll wave a couple here as Wade's book passes into the rearview mirror of popular sensation.     read more