First appeared in Rain Taxi Review of Books by Nigel Beale This book is best read by the light of another, John Carey’s What Good are the Arts? (Oxford University Press, 2006), a witty, truculent, masterful polemic which argues that a “work of art is anything that anyone has ever considered a work of art, [...]

First appeared in The Globe and Mail In Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume, protagonist Jean Baptiste Grenouille is born on a stinking hot day in July, 1738, under a gutting table in a fish market in Paris. Abandoned amid the swarm of flies and offal and then orphaned, he subsequently legs his way through a succession [...]

Reports of the Critic’s death have been greatly exaggerated Contrary to what the title of Ronan McDonald’s new book may tell you, the critic is not dead. He’s alive and crowing on the Internet. Today we can get all the criticism ever voiced in history, on the Web. We also get what rankles right now, [...]

One can find fault with his showy, wilfully obscure style, but the world he predicted 50 years ago is the one we live in Fifty years ago, Marshall McLuhan was musing about how media served to extend the human brain. At the time, though some had an inkling of his genius, few understood what he [...]

Montaigne once said that there is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees. By this measure, James Wood’s How Fiction Works is filled with excitement. Much of its conversation argues in favour of realism. The works of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Spark and Woolf are cited throughout as exemplars of all that is [...]

A poster of Salvador Dali’s ‘Swans reflecting Elephants’, a black and white photo of Marilyn Monroe leaning, like a feline, up against a door frame, and a swim-suited, cleavage-baring Farrah Fawcett all, among other delights, graced the walls of my bedroom when I was a teenager. So did J.M. W. Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. And, [...]

“A genre is hardening. It is becoming possible to describe today’s ‘big, ambitious novel.’ Familial resemblances are asserting themselves, and a parent can be named: Dickens.” — James Wood, “Hysterical Realism.” “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise [...]