A Giver of Rings

Beowulf contains a great many lessons relevant to daily living. First, don’t go to sleep near the hero or the monster will eat you. Second, after you kill a monster don’t go to sleep before knowing whether the monster has a mother bent on vengeance. If you don’t take care, she . . . . Continue Reading »

25 Favorite Short Stories

In his Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defined a novel as “a short story padded.” This is an all too apt description. The inability to prune a story to its essential story is an unfortunate quality shared by many modern writers and the primary reason that bookshelves are filled with . . . . Continue Reading »

Tolstoy and Dostoevsky
(and Christ)

I have had this experience three times now, on three different occasions, in admittedly similar circumstances, but not similar enough to explain the coincidence: I am speaking from a podium to a fairly large audience on the topics of—to put it broadly—evil, suffering, and God; I have been talking for several minutes about Ivan Karamazov, and about things I have written on Dostoevsky, to what seems general approbation; then, for some reason or other, I happen to remark that, considered purely as an artist, Dostoevsky is immeasurably inferior to Tolstoy; at this, a single pained gasp of incredulity breaks out … Continue Reading »

Children’s Books, Lost and Found

Sometimes a book is in the canon of children’s literature just because the writing is so good. Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, for instance, stands as the perfection of its kind: a prose of greeny gold, of summer recollected in autumn’s light. Rudyard Kipling, too, has the perfect sort . . . . Continue Reading »