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Articles by Robert Minto

The Disgraceful Lowlands of Writing

February 1st, 2017
The Disgraceful Lowlands of Writing

Reiner Stach’s masterful, epic biography of Kafka is finally complete. Never has the man been less mysterious, but can it illuminate the confounding, beguiling mystery of his writing?

Passion Rules the World

November 1st, 2016
Passion Rules the World

Boris Dralyuk’s new translation of Isaac Babel’s Odessa Tales brings its Jewish gangsters back to more vibrant life than ever. Robert Minto reviews.

Absent Friends: An Intellectual All The Time

October 1st, 2016
Absent Friends: An Intellectual All The Time

An old book by a monk may be the best thing ever written about the practice of thinking. Robert Minto revisits The Intellectual Life.

Light Puppets

September 1st, 2016
Light Puppets

In Moonstone, Icelandic author Sjón tells a story of 1918 Iceland through the longings and alienation of a sixteen-year-old orphan named Mani. Robert Minto reviews.

Patricide Deferred

August 1st, 2016
Patricide Deferred

Stuart Jeffries has written the first truly accessible account of the Frankfurt School. Robert Minto reviews.

Socrates of Amazonia

June 1st, 2016
Socrates of Amazonia

What exactly is a philosopher? As it turns out, that question may have more than one answer. Robert Minto shares the exciting results of Justin Smith’s new history.

Second Glance: The Secret of Prometheus

May 1st, 2016
Second Glance: The Secret of Prometheus

The oldest texts can seem familiar, but they repay attention with strangeness. Robert Minto delves into the religious origins and unresolved mysteries of Prometheus Bound.

A Question of Character

April 1st, 2016
A Question of Character

In an entertaining new study of Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir and company, the existentialist movement becomes a personality-driven piece of public performance.

Another Way To See

March 1st, 2016
Another Way To See

John Berger’s writing on art often feels more dramatic than analytic, a passionate study of the unspoken transaction between artist and viewer. Robert Minto looks at Portraits.

Slaves in the Empire of Intellect

January 1st, 2016
Slaves in the Empire of Intellect

Before he was a famous and controversial philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche was a young professor with a bone to pick. Robert Minto discusses his critique of higher education.

Book Review: Latest Readings

August 16th, 2015
latest readings

Ailing cultural critic Clive James turns in what may very well be his final collection of essays. Robert Minto reviews.

Book Review: Moral Agents

August 14th, 2015
moral agents

A collection of profiles of eight pivotal American literary men of the 20th century – Robert Minto reviews

Book Review: The Poetry of John Milton

August 12th, 2015
poetry of john milton cover

A sumptuous new book studies the work of one of the English language’s greatest poets. Robert Minto reviews.

Peer Review: Front Row Seats

July 1st, 2015
Peer Review: Front Row Seats

Biographer Zachary Leader takes his readers on a long, detailed tour of the first half of Saul Bellow’s life, and while those readers may be loving it, the critics have been complaining!

Classics Reissued: A Legacy

June 30th, 2015
a legacy cover

Sybille Bedford’s great novel – now in a pretty reprint from the New York Review of Books – has the sweep of Edward Gibbon and the emotional vitality of Jane Austen. Robert Minto takes a new look at a classic.

Book Review: The World Beyond Your Head

June 18th, 2015
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The “ecologies of attention and action” form the dynamic heart of philosopher Matthew Crawford’s new book. Robert Minto reviews.

Father Knows Best

June 1st, 2015
Father Knows Best

He shaped the morals and manners of a vast country and put an indelible stamp on the world’s thinking, but he himself couldn’t get the job he wanted. Robert Minto reviews a new history of Confucianism.

Book Review: Goethe

May 26th, 2015
goethe cover

A short new biography seeks to do the impossible: encompass the Protean life of Goethe in only a handful of pages. Robert Minto reviews.

The Schizophrenic Prophet

May 1st, 2015
The Schizophrenic Prophet

A sumptuous new Library of America volume contains a rich sampling of the work of Reinhold Niebuhr – whom reviewer Robert Minto refers to as “the premiere establishment theologian of the 20th century.”

Book Review: Lucky Alan and Other Stories

April 21st, 2015
lucky alan cover

Jonathan Lethem’s latest book continues his project of combining the literary and the pulpy – Robert Minto reviews.

Book Review: The Last Word

April 2nd, 2015
last word cover

The incestuously-close relationship between a literary biographer and his subject lies at the heart of Hanif Kureishi’s new novel

Thinking in Quotations

April 1st, 2015
Thinking in Quotations

On its schematic blueprints, the latest book by noted literary polymath Alberto Manguel is “about” Dante’s Divine Comedy – but as Robert Minto discovers, this author is at his best when he’s digressing.

Book Review: Plato’s Wayward Path

March 19th, 2015
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Plato might be Western philosophy’s first great writer, but a new book argues we’ve mostly been reading him wrong.

Book Review: Those Who Write For Immortality

March 13th, 2015
those who write cover

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work,” Woody Allen famously quipped; “I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” Robert Minto reviews a new book on what it takes to make it big in the literary afterlife

Inheritance of Anger

March 1st, 2015
Inheritance of Anger

The great Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa claims he became a writer in order to annoy his father; his new novel takes up this age-old theme of the strife between fathers and sons.

Book Review: The Just City

February 18th, 2015
the just city cover

In Jo Walton’s latest novel, the “just city” of Plato’s Republic is brought to life via Greek gods, robots, and a little discreet time travel

Book Review: Sartre: A Philosophical Biography

February 11th, 2015
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Sartre the man takes a distant back seat to Sartre the thinker in Thomas Flynn’s new intellectual biography

Second Glance: For Eternity

February 1st, 2015
Second Glance: For Eternity

John Bunyan’s book-length religious allegory Pilgrim’s Progress strikes many of today’s readers as hopelessly hokey and tone-deaf – but it still has abundant power to change lives, as one passionate reader attests.

Something Beyond the Chaos

December 1st, 2014
Something Beyond the Chaos

The author made immortal by the novel Dune also wrote a career’s worth of short stories. Robert Minto looks at the first-ever complete collection of those stories.

Thinking in Common

November 1st, 2014
Thinking in Common

The great critic and essayist Irving Howe laid claim to a great many decayed traditions – and then elevated them all to high art. A new collection of his prose presents some of his gems.

Book Review: The Unsubstantial Air

October 8th, 2014
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Even before America entered the First World War, daring young Americans were taking to the skies over France, and during the war some of their exploits became legendary; a gripping new history tells the story of America’s first air war.

Woven and Severed

October 1st, 2014
Woven and Severed

For millennia, the mighty tales in the epics of Homer have challenged and enthralled the world; a thought-provoking new book seeks to understand why.

The Done Thing

September 1st, 2014
The Done Thing

England had been at war with France almost continuously since the Norman Conquest, but in the Hundred Years War, the conflict became especially heightened – and transformative. A new history tells the story as a rattling good yarn.

Book Review: Demon’s Brood

August 30th, 2014
demon’s brood cover

Before the headline-grabbing Tudor dynasty, England was ramped from end to end by an even greater and more terrible family of kings and queens. They were the mighty Plantagenets, and a new book tells their story

Only Him

July 1st, 2014
Only Him

In the discipline of philosophy, “Aristotelian” evokes not just a school of thought but an entire world. “Ethics After Aristotle” traces the history and impact of the most influential thought-tradition of them all.