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Honor Thy Child

Lila: A Novel by marilynne robinson farrar, straus and giroux, 272 pages, $26 Of Pieter Bruegel’s sixteenth-century de­­pic­­tion of Icarus crashing into the sea, W. H. Auden observes “how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster.” Bruegel’s painting shows a tragedy . . . . Continue Reading »

Get Ready for a “Quantitative Approach” to Reading

At Stanford, literary scholar and marxist critic Franco Moretti proposes a radical plan for English departments: less reading, more computing. With an ocean of texts yet to be studied, literary-historians must, Moretti argues, adopt the methods of quantitative history, geography, and evolutionary theory. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History (2005) frames the problem in layman’s terms: The whole canon of the nineteenth century British novel—about two hundred titles, Moretti estimates— Continue Reading »

A Witness, in Life and Letters

Born in Britain in 1923, and educated at Eton and Oxford, Philip Trower is a Catholic writer of notable achievement. This alone merits attention—as there is much talk about the relative dearth of Catholic authors today—but Trower’s life and work offer something more, as they speak to questions that are being asked within the Church today. Continue Reading »

The Enemies, and Friends, of the Humanities

A funny thing happened when Michael Novak brought Herbert Marcuse to lecture to his students. It was the early-1970s when campus rebellion had entered its darker phase, and Marcuse was an idol of the Movement. His theory of “repressive tolerance” served as an essential touchstone for protest, and his volatile mix of Marx and Freud seemed an edgy, relevant style of intellectualized activism. Continue Reading »

Serious Summer Reading Recommendations

Spenser’s Faerie Queene and James’ Golden Bowl as summer reading? I can hear my wife groaning and commenting that these recommendations amount to the intellectual equivalent of my usual vacation plans, which often involve climbing remote mountains and going on hundred mile bike rides. Continue Reading »

David Foster Wallace to the Rescue

Let’s not speak of suicide. Let’s not encourage the cottage industry bent on reducing David Foster Wallace to a literary Kurt Cobain, a romance of self-demise. This is a significant temptation for any posthumous reading of Wallace, whose writing is populated by suicides and addicts and clients . . . . Continue Reading »

What Are the Best Books about Heaven?

Excepting of course, The Book. I ask this question jumping off of Paul’ comment in the thread below. I’ve always been a doubt-bedeviled Christian, and whereas when I was younger it was the multiple issues raised by predestination and hell that caused me the most concern, the older I get . . . . Continue Reading »

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