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Articles in second glance

From the Archives: Playing Lotto with Wittgenstein

June 1st, 2016

Since its publication in 2000, The Last Samurai has been defined, but not explained, as a “cult classic.” In this regular feature, Garth Risk Hallberg looks with fresh eyes at Helen DeWitt’s brilliant and jolting novel.

From the Archives: The Quiet One

April 1st, 2016
From the Archives: The Quiet One

Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is usually overshadowed by her sisters’ masterpieces, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but this gripping novel, a startling exposé of Victorian patriarchy, deserves a turn in the spotlight.

“Darkly Luminous”: D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love

January 1st, 2016
“Darkly Luminous”: D. H. Lawrence’s <em>Women in Love</em>

The working title of D. H. Lawrence’s Women In Love was Dies Irae – Day of Wrath. But reading it will make you feel not despairing but vibrantly alive.

Second Glance: Fatal Beauty

May 1st, 2015
Second Glance: Fatal Beauty

Nothing shakes up the literary establishment like women writers — or women readers — who won’t stay quietly in their place.

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.

Beethoven in the Soul

July 1st, 2014
Beethoven in the Soul

Over time, the books of our youth make way for titles better suited to the grown-up readers we have become. But not all of them: YA or not, some books — such as K. M. Peyton’s Pennington trilogy — deserve a lasting place on our shelves.

Second Glance: The Wit and Woe of Mavis Gallant

February 18th, 2014

We mourn the death of the great Canadian short story writer Mavis Gallant and are re-running Karen Vanuska’s moving appreciation from 2009 in tribute.

Second Glance: Wretched Creatures

December 1st, 2013
Second Glance: Wretched Creatures

John Ford’s story of star-crossed lovers is bloodier than Shakespeare’s and more heart-wrenching, too, for it’s a tragedy of childhood, of innocence lost.

Second Glance: Kapuściński’s Africa

December 1st, 2013
Second Glance: Kapuściński’s Africa

Ryszard Kapuściński has courted controversy for the poetic licenses in his groundbreaking works of history. But it’s those leaps of imagination and sympathy that make his 2001 book on Africa, The Shadow of the Sun, a lasting work of art.

Second Glance: No Lesser Crime

November 1st, 2013
Second Glance: No Lesser Crime

“The Moonstone will have its vengeance on you and yours!” Those fateful words propel us into one of the first and best of modern English detective novels — still sensational after all these years.

Second Glance: The Privy Mark of Irony

August 1st, 2013
Second Glance: The Privy Mark of Irony

The Knight of the Burning Pestle began its theatrical run in1607—and concluded it almost immediately. But why? Colleen Shea explores the mysterious failure of this hilarious, satirical, meta-theatrical romp.

Second Glance: Another City

May 1st, 2013
Second Glance: Another City

Mark Wallace’s novels won’t be found at a Barnes & Noble, and that may be a shame beyond words: both Dead Carnival and The Quarry and the Lot reveal haunting truths and wrestle language into terrifying attitudes.

Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

March 1st, 2013
Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

He may not have anything new to tell us today, but as Spencer Lenfield demonstrates, Gilbert Highet’s friendly, engaging pedagogy is still rare enough to keep him relevant.

Her Hands Full of Sugar-Plums

March 1st, 2013
Her Hands Full of Sugar-Plums

George Eliot’s Middlemarch is beloved for its wit and wisdom. But behind its many beauties lurks a disquieting possibility: that misery is the price we must pay for morality.

Queen of the Gypsies

February 1st, 2013

Spoiler alert! It’s a familiar warning — but isn’t it also a silly one? There’s so much more to novels than their plots. And yet what if we’re better readers for not knowing? Consider The Mill on the Floss, for example.

Second Glance: Jane Collier’s Burn Book

January 1st, 2013
Second Glance: Jane Collier’s Burn Book

Long before Hairpin and Jezebel, Jane Collier, under the influence of Jonathan Swift, was savagely satirizing women’s ettiquette guides in her work An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting. Chris R. Morgan revisits the caustic classic.

The Prince of the Powers of the Air

December 1st, 2012
The Prince of the Powers of the Air

Anthony Burgess is famous, but not for his best book. John Cotter sees your A Clockwork Orange and raises you the new Europa edition of Earthly Powers.

‘Glory, Maiden, Glory!’: The Uncomfortable Chivalry of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe

August 1st, 2012

You think you know Ivanhoe: it’s the original swash-buckling adventure story, full of fights, escapes, ambushes, and then, of course, a happy ending. But what you see if you look more closely may make you think twice about its chivalric ideals.

Macaroni and Cheese

June 1st, 2012

“You come as opportunely as cheese on macaroni” is a terrible line, a symptom of all the reasons George Eliot’s Romola is a failure. But is failure really such a bad thing? Maybe a novelist’s reach should exceed her grasp.

Second Glance: Halberstam’s Vietnam and The Anxiety of Power

June 1st, 2012

McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, RFK, JFK, LBJ–these were the best and the brightest of David Halberstam’s landmark study of American politics during the Vietnam War. The book is now 40 years old and its lessons are as vital as ever.

Second Glance: The Radicalism of Felix Holt

June 1st, 2012

Felix Holt, the Radical may be one of George Eliot’s least-read novels, but its questions about a democracy that puts power in the hands of “ignorant numbers” still have both moral and political resonance.

Second Glance: Seth Morgan and the Kamikaze Novel

April 1st, 2012

With its headspinning wordplay and lunatic cast of characters, Seth Morgan’s 1990 novel Homeboy blazed like a comet into the literary pantheon. Steve Danziger revisits this grime crime classic.

Over Grinton Bridge: Riding into the Heart of Reformation

December 1st, 2011

A rich, beautiful, but sadly neglected historical masterpiece: Hilda Prescott’s The Man on a Donkey is the War and Peace of the English Reformation

Kindly Words and Spectacles: The Art of Barbara Pym

September 1st, 2011

Her merciless social scrutiny and crystal-perfect prose put Barbara Pym in the same league as Jane Austen — and yet she languishes on the edge of obscurity. We offer a re-appraisal — and a celebration.

‘What a Brain must Mine be!’: The Strange Historical Romances of William Harrison Ainsworth

August 1st, 2011

Once considered a credible rival to Dickens and Thackeray, W. H. Ainsworth is nearly forgotten today. It’s our loss: his historical novels – full of sensuous detail – run the gamut of romance and horror, tragedy and comedy.

Astonish Us

May 1st, 2011
Astonish Us

Pauline Kael is out of print today and perhaps known best for the enemies she made. But any immersion into her passionate, intelligent writing shows her to have been one of the best movie critics–or critic of any kind–of the past century.

Against the Wind

October 1st, 2010

It’s one of the iconic bestsellers of the 20th century, an epic of love and war — but how well does “Gone With The Wind” hold up, as a book? A personal journey through a problematic classic.

Second Glance: The Daringly Sensible Marjorie Hillis

October 1st, 2010
Live alone cover

In books such as “Live Alone and Like It” Marjorie Hillis preached independence and practical style to “live-aloner” working women of the 1930s and beyond

The Morality of Vanity Fair: It’s All About You

July 1st, 2010

Thackeray’s seminal big baggy monster of a novel is a satiric romp across all levels of English society – and every bit as enjoyable now as it was when it was the talk of London in 1847

The Lost Library: Donald Windham’s Two People

March 1st, 2010

Donald Windham may not have intended his 1965 novel Two People to be trailblazing, but its unsentimental frankness set it apart just the same. Philip Gambone reads it again.

Second Glance: “Today belongs to few and tomorrow to no one”

January 1st, 2010

As Ingrid Norton reports, the eerie and heartbroken poems of W.S. Merwin’s The Lice continue to resonate thirty years on: whispering, creeping, shaking.

Second Glance: A Weight that Won’t Go Away

November 1st, 2009

Readers are familiar with the uncompromising dissections of Apartheid South Africa in J.M. Coetzee’s Booker winners Disgrace and Life and Times of Michael K, but Greg Gerke wants us to be equally aware of the haunting vision of Coetzee’s 1990 novel Age of Iron

Second Glance: Reading Anthony Trollope

October 1st, 2009
Second Glance: Reading Anthony Trollope

He wrote over 40 novels, many of which are classics, and that sheer quantity can be daunting. Rohan Maitzen tells us how best to approach the literary dynamo that was Anthony Trollope.

Second Glance: Wave and Say Hello to Frances

June 1st, 2009

She was a bestseller in her day, now virtually unknown. Fanny Burney, and her great novel Evelina, gets some long-deserved attention from Tracey Kelly.

Second Glance: He Hears Them Speaking

June 1st, 2009

You may have passed over Frederick Busch’s many novels on bookstore shelves; Brad Jones convinces you to stop and read the words.

Second Glance: A Voice Displaced

September 1st, 2008

Exiled Russian writer Nina Berberova (who fled to America when the Nazis invaded her adopted homeland of France) spent her entire career examining the experience of displacement. In this regular feature, Karen Vanuska revisits Berberova’s life and literary achievements and finds them startlingly relevant to our own fractured times.

Second Glance: A Compilation Too Far?

April 1st, 2008

In his lifetime, E.B. White oversaw nearly a dozen collections of his essays; Karen Vanuska appraises a posthumous ingathering edited by Rebecca M. Dale and lets us know whether it adds to White’s legacy or merely overlaps it

Second Glance: Marilynne Robinson’s Psalms and Prophecy

December 1st, 2007

This month our regular feature is devoted to a study of the small but potent canon of Marilynne Robinson. Sam Sacks dives back into her famous fiction and formidable essays.

Second Glance: Do You Know Squarepusher?

September 1st, 2007

In this regular feature, Adam Golaski revisits Intelligent Dance (or “laptop”) Music, discovering unity and poise in a Squarepusher album which critics have short-sightedly misfiled.

Second Glance: Dorothy Sayers and the Last Golden Age

August 1st, 2007

Joanna Scutts inaugurates this regular feature by revisiting the groundbreaking mysteries of Dorothy Sayers, who’s ability to wryly delight remains undimmed.