Japan’s Epic

From the April 2013 Print Edition

The Tale of the Heike Translated by Royall Tyler? Viking, 784 pages, $50 If you have ever read Lafcadio Hearn’s collection of Japanese tales Kwaidan , or seen Masaki Kobayashi’s brilliant film from 1965, you will recall “The Story of Mimi-nashi-H?ïchi,” which tells the tale . . . . Continue Reading »

Seeing the God

From the February 2013 Print Edition

For the first ten of its eleven chapters, the Metamorphosis or Golden Ass of Apuleius (c. 125-c. 180) seems to be nothing more than a diverting, frequently ribald burlesque; but then, in the closing pages, the tone entirely changes, and all at once the farce gives way to one of the loveliest and . . . . Continue Reading »

The Long March Ahead

From the January 2013 Print Edition

I rarely talk politics, not because I have none, but because mine are too eccentric to appeal to anyone other than myself and a few equally peregrine souls, and because my pessimism regarding political institutions is often so bitterly bleak that it annoys even me. After the 2008 election, for . . . . Continue Reading »

God and the Mad Hatter

From the December 2012 Print Edition

Materialism, being a fairly coarse superstition, tends to render its adherents susceptible to a great many utterly fantastic notions. All that is needed to make even the most outlandish theory seem plausible to the truly doctrinaire materialist is that it come wrapped in the appurtenances of . . . . Continue Reading »

Therapeutic Superstition

From the November 2012 Print Edition

Some years ago, when I was nineteen and living in the north of England, I knew a middle-aged man named Reuben who claimed to be visited by angels, to receive visions and auditions from God, to see and converse with the spirits of nature, and to be able to intuit the spiritual complaints of nearly . . . . Continue Reading »

Brilliantly Bad Books

From the October 2012 Print Edition

Best to begin in medias res, says Horace, so let me start with two exemplary excerpts from the works of the inimitable Irish writer Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860–1939). The first opens the fourth chapter of her debut novel of 1897, Irene Iddesleigh: When on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over . . . . Continue Reading »