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The Genius of Wordsworth

“I wandered lonely as a cloud.” So begins a famous poem of William Wordsworth’s, one that was often taught to schoolchildren back when memorizing poetry was part of education. The poet comes upon “a crowd, / A host, of golden daffodils.” The flowers flutter and dance before him, their . . . . Continue Reading »

Poet of Loneliness

No writer understood loneliness better than Chekhov. People long for understanding, and try to confide their feelings, but more often than not, others are too self-absorbed to care. In Chekhov’s plays, unlike those of his predecessors, characters speak past each other. Often enough, they talk in . . . . Continue Reading »

Standing Against Tyranny

A year before the end of his long life (1895–1998), the German author Ernst Jünger converted to Catholicism, a late change on a tumultuous path of searching and adventures that were far from exclusively spiritual. Born into a Protestant family, he attended conventional boarding schools, but at . . . . Continue Reading »

Lamb to the Slaughter

George Frazier had a story about the first time he met John O’Hara. The journalist and clotheshorse Frazier was introduced to the novelist O’Hara while hanging out at a Greenwich Village jazz club. The famously cranky O’Hara looked Frazier up and down before inviting him to have a drink. . . . . Continue Reading »

Russian Purgatory

The Russian soul. The phrase serves as shorthand for Russia’s national character, after the manner of American innocence, French arrogance, Italian dolce far niente, and what used to be the English stiff upper lip. Russians are reputed to feel more than the rest of us do, think deep thoughts . . . . Continue Reading »

Strategic Long-Term Propaganda

In the opening lines of Cold Warriors, Duncan White notes that “between February and May 1955, a group covertly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency launched a secret weapon into Communist territory”: balloons carrying copies of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This was perhaps the . . . . Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

Tyll: A Novel by daniel kehlmann, translated by ross benjamin pantheon, 352 pages, $26.95 Daniel Kehlmann’s novel Tyll, like its title character, is full of dark surprises. Tyll ­Ulenspiegel, a legendary figure from German folklore, is a prankster, magician, and traveling performer. Throughout . . . . Continue Reading »

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