What We've Been Reading—7.31.15

I am in the first 50 page of Midcentury, a 1961 novel by John Dos Passos. Dos Passos (born 1896, died 1970) is largely forgotten today. He doesn't even appear much on syllabi in undergraduate American literature courses. There are two reasons for that. One is Dos Passos' politics. Like so many others, he started out as a writer on the left, in the 30s flirting with the Communist Party and joining Hemingway in Spain to help in the fight against the Fascists. The murderous conduct of Stalinists in Spain turned him off of communism, and further world events pushed him farther right during and after the war. The more he came to despise collectivism, even to the point of briefly supporting Joe McCarthy, the less the literary world favored him. The other reason Dos Passos has disappeared is literary. (Randy Boyogoda's essay in the current issue of First Things directly relates to this point.) His fiction comes out of an era in which the novel was a great carrier of history and ideas. Continue Reading »

A Gallery of American Dreams

Though only the first act of Denis Johnson’s Angels takes place in transit, the book has the feel of a road novel—specifically, an American road novel. The story is straightforward: Two people, Jamie Mays and Bill Houston, meet aboard a Greyhound. One is in flight from an unfaithful . . . . Continue Reading »

What We've Been Reading (and Watching)

Austen Ivereigh reports that when Jorge Mario Bergoglio was at the helm of the Colegio Máximo—a Jesuit seminary in the San Miguel region of Buenos Aires—he piloted with “a charismatic personalist style of leadership, the kind Latins (and especially Argentines) respond naturally to, yet which Anglo-Saxons can regard as suffocating or demagogic.” Continue Reading »

Making a Library of My Books

While procrastinating from surely more pressing projects, I decided to alphabetize my books. I have many books, too many, including not a few volumes I'll likely never read, but I've never felt that I've had a “library.” That's the sort of thing that I imagine requiring a great mansion built by . . . . Continue Reading »