First appeared in The Guardian Last year Ronan MacDonald published a book that lamented the death of the academic critic, blaming mortality on a failure to proffer literary value judgment. Despite long-seated ill-ease over critical practices based solely on personal pleasure and response, many academics agree with critic John Carey when he says that values […]

First appeared in The Guardian Now that the holly is decked out, many readers of this site will no doubt be hustling to their favourite bookstores to buy the latest Guardian Picks. While some will make a point of patronizing local independents – the charming ones with the unmatched personal service – more no doubt […]

Much of what is most interesting about the Arts is determined by where lines are drawn, both on paper and between genres. Famed Canadian poet and book designer Robert Bringhurst asserts, for example, that the primary value of a book resides in its capacity to preserve and convey ideas. If we accept this, then objects […]

From nudes and abstract oil, to Howard Hodgkin, Iris Murdoch, and the Private Presses…book collectors go for much more than just words on the page As incomprehensible as it may seem to the hard core collector, there are in fact some people who actually read the books they buy. Although many obsess over the ‘book […]

First appeared in The Globe and Mail 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, […]

Literary Criticism – or the body of critics – should be to the writer what the Roman senate was to the Roman general in the field: an unseen presence sitting sternly in judgment over his blunders; but also voting him a triumph if he did his duty well. Shall I indulge in the sarcasm of […]

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 […]

I love Spain. Especially, I love strolling along the broad and beautiful passeos of Madrid caressed by soft, cool breezes, surrounded by startlingly magnificent architecture, fueled by a belly full of tapas and tinto de verano. I don’t however love Spanish customer service practices, or at least the startlingly counter-productive protocol they operate under. I […]

Christopher Hitchens died last December at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. I re-read his Letters to a Young Contrarian on the flight down here. The next day I took the light rail train from our hotel in to town. It passed by the Center. Just seeing the place for those fleeting seconds was a very […]

I am presently moved by sundrenched Parthenopea, my thanks are for you, Ischia, to whom a fair wind has brought me rejoicing with dear friends from soiled productive cities. How well you correct our injured eyes, how gently you train us to see things and men in perspective underneath your uniform light From ‘Ischia’ by […]