Empson in the East

The Face of the Buddhaby william empsonedited by rupert arrowsmithoxford, 208 pages, $49.95 William Empson (1906–1984) was not, as he is frequently said to have been, an “important critic,” but only because there is no such thing. By the same token, neither was he a unicorn, a square circle, . . . . Continue Reading »

From a Vanished Library

The library in question is not the Great Library of Alexandria, but it is every bit as much a thing of the past, existing now as scarcely a memory—almost legendary, positively Edenic. I think it had been my ambition throughout much of my life to accumulate a collection of books in the ideal, . . . . Continue Reading »

Why We Believe in Fairies

Everyone—or almost everyone—agrees that there are no such things as fairies nowadays, and probably never were. They seem to belong to the class of mildly amusing, spooky things mentioned in urban fantasies for fun and in antireligious tracts to suggest that believing in God is just as silly. To . . . . Continue Reading »

Bruckner’s Gethsemane

The devoutly Catholic Bruckner dedicated his last symphony to “the dear God,” and prayed in his final illness that the Lord would allow him to finish his masterwork. In the event, his prayer was not granted. Yet in a deeper sense the three movements he lived to complete could hardly be surpassed. The sublime and harrowing third movement makes any further statement, this side of heaven, redundant! Continue Reading »