review

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 [...]

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 [...]

In a recent article entitled ‘Two Paths for the Novel’, Zadie Smith praises what requires criticism, and criticizes what deserves praise; erects straw men in order, simply, to blow them over, and presents arguments, which, when valid, are so for the wrong reasons. Her thinking is convoluted and self contradictory. Smith starts off her highly [...]

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 [...]

“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 [...]