We meet a familiar angst-ridden Russian early in the pages of Jakov Lind’s novel Landscape in Concrete: Dostoevsky’s Underground man surfaces in the guise of Gauthier Bachmann to here tread the desolate earth of the Ardennes during WW ll. No longer confined by inertia to his wretched little room, this protagonist is on the road [...]

Little ducks and tadpoles render large life lessons in Richard Greene’s Governor-General’s Award-winning book of poetry Boxing the Compass. Ducks because of how, with Beckett, unbothered, “They paddle crazily among remnants Of winter, the mud and the rotted leaves, Casually insisting on what comes next” It’s the same casual, unbothered insistence found in Samuel Beckett’s [...]

“The 1930s: The Making of ‘The New Man’” is a stark reminder of how easily huge numbers of human beings can be convinced to slaughter and maim one another, how weak and hateful we can be, how susceptible to promises of salvation and self-aggrandizement, how quick to forget atrocities. In short, the exhibit shows how [...]

Be warned in time, James, and remain, as I do, incomprehensible: to be great is to be misunderstood. Oscar Wilde. In her poem ‘I dwell in Possibility’ Emily Dickinson compares poetry to a house; open to those with imagination, closed to those who can’t understand. When a poet fails to hold the house door open, [...]

A thick helping of recognition was recently served up to the Beirut-born Rawi Hage for his first novel, De Niro’s Game winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the world’s richest prize ($153,000) for a work of literary fiction. Recognition from a country that knows something about the evils of religion, a theme that [...]

Assuming the format of an Everyman’s dictionary of writers, Robert Bolaño’s novel Nazi Literature in the Americas, consists of a series of short profiles, thirty brief fictitious lives of pan American fascist novelists and poets, depicted with such straightforward urbanity and good humor that one almost misses the sick joke behind the pretense. I’m reminded [...]

Dr. Johnson defined the essay as “an irregular, indigested piece, not a regular and orderly performance.” By this count there is no doubt that what Stephen Henighan presents in A Report on the Afterlife of Culture are indeed essays; what is missing however, in both Johnson’s descriptive and Henighan’s book, is necessary, cogent argument. Without [...]

Ezra Pound advises the poet to charge language with meaning “to the utmost possible degree.” Critic Harold Bloom posits that poets, inspired to write by reading other poets, produce, as a sorry result, work that is derivative, weak, soon forgotten. The influence of great predecessors is, he says, like influenza, “an astral disease,” an anxiety-causing [...]

Why do books matter? David Pearson sets forth to tell us in Books as History, a colourful, trade paperback filled with illustrations and observations detailing the value of the ‘book as object.’ Books as we understand them may well cease to be read, says Pearson. In order to preserve them we must, he says, recognize [...]

Opaque “sung therapy” is what, for the most part, played at the Alanis Morrisette concert I attended recently, save for when the hard, memorable edges of her early, affecting anthems jutted and rang out. During the long gaps between them, a weedless haze seemed to hang over me, mixed with a vague, frustrating urge to [...]