Recovering the Classics

Review of Shakespeare's Hamlet by Leland RykenLast year I argued that we live in a new Dark Ages, “a time of moral confusion,” in which western civilization, classically understood, has basically disappeared because of our elites’ decision to stop reading and teaching the great books. The solution is for a generation to take upon themselves the mantle of what I called “book hunters,” people who “take it upon themselves to “to uncover and salvage the best of what came before: to cherish it; hold … [Read more...]

C.S. Lewis and the Feverish Passion of ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’

Review of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García MárquezThis summer, determined to finally make a dent in my 'to read' list, I finally took the plunge into Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez's classic South American romance, Love in the Time of Cholera.[SPOILER ALERT FROM HERE ON OUT]García Márquez tells the story of the young poet Florentino Ariza, who falls in love with the lovely (and even younger) Fermina Daza. The two begin a passionate correspondence, despite the v … [Read more...]

Quoth Nathaniel Hawthorne: ‘Burn, Baby, Burn’

Review of Earth’s Holocaust by Nathaniel HawthorneYou may know Nathaniel Hawthorne from being subjected to his The Scarlet Letter in high school or—if you’re especially unlucky—his The House of the Seven Gables in college. Which means that you’ve probably avoided everything with “Hawthorne” listed as the author since then. Which further means that you have missed out on some truly wonderful short stories where he proves that he’s earned his reputation just why he’s ranked as one of America’s … [Read more...]

The Once and Future (Totally Depraved) King

Review of The Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteI think it’s safe to say that the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is pretty universally known. However, the story varies some from book to book and film to film. T.H. White’s fantasy classic, The Once and Future King, is quite possibly one of the best known versions of the tale—and with good reason. Told in four parts, it chronicles Arthur’s rise from lowly squire to King of England, the noble experiment of the Round Tabl … [Read more...]

The Woman in White and the Sassy Single Sister

A Review of The Woman in White, by Wilkie CollinsBy ALEXIS NEALIn 1859, British novelist and playwright Wilkie Collins penned The Woman in White, arguably the first detective novel (Poe’s ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, published some 18 years earlier, was not a full-length novel) and an excellent example of the sensational literature popular at the time. It has since earned a spot on several lists of Great Novels, and has been adapted for stage and screen something like a dozen times … [Read more...]

Chasing the Orgastic Future with Jay Gatsby

Review of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe first time I read The Great Gatsby, I was high on codeine—recovering from surgery—and had vivid hallucinatory dreams of the green light every night for a week. Almost twenty years later, the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s forthcoming screen adaptation is making the rounds, and I see that Luhrmann was also on drugs while making the film. Somehow this seems appropriate.The Great Gatsby (1925) did not win the Pulitzer Prize or any other presti … [Read more...]

The Romance of the Noble Savage: The Deerslayer

Review of The Deerslayer by James Fenimore CooperFive white people are holed up in a floating cabin in the middle of a lake and surrounded on all sides by woods infested with hostile Huron Indians bent on murder, rape, and pillage. A tense game of cat and mouse ensues as intricate as chess: maneuvering for advantage, night raids on campsites, kidnappings, negotiations, ransom, and, yes, scalping.This is The Deerslayer (1841), a classic of 19th Century American literature. Despite its … [Read more...]

Slaughterhouse-Five

Review of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutBy COYLE NEALBilly Pilgrim has become unstuck in time. That is, he does not live from second to second as most of us do, but instead jumps to the future, and then back to the past, and then again to the present (whatever that means—it can be hard to judge what the “present” is when you’re unstuck in time). Along the way, he fights in the Battle of the Bulge, lives in a German POW camp in Dresden right before it is bombed by the Allies (someth … [Read more...]

Kafka’s World Without Grace

Review of The Trial, by Franz KafkaBy PAUL D. MILLERA hundred years ago, a German-speaking Czech insurance salesman—and a secular Jew—wrote three incomplete novels and a handful of short stories and died young. His reputation soared among literati, who speak of this man—Franz Kafka—in the hushed, awed tones reserved for the great and the gods. His name has become an adjective: to be in a Kafkaesque world is to be trapped in the clutches of an irrational, faceless authority, ensnared in the … [Read more...]

Pride and Prejudice and Blitzkrieg: Tolstoy’s War and Peace

Review of War and Peace by Leo TolstoyBy PAUL D. MILLERWar and Peace is five hundred and sixty thousand words long. It is more than twice as long as Moby Dick, almost triple the length of Jane Eyre, more than quadruple Augustine’s Confessions. It is one great pulsating mass of text, a grey rising tide of narrative. Enter War and Peace at your peril: it may swallow you whole.If you dare the crossing and, unlike Napoleon’s Army, make it all the way back alive, you may discover the book … [Read more...]