Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Ides of March!

Our book today is Thorton Wilder’s wonderful 1948 epistolary Roman historical novel The Ides of March; I found a neat old green-jacketed cover at the Brattle Bookshop the other day, and I smiled all the more readily at the sight of it, since I’d recently been unutterably wearied by the hosannas showered by the book-chat […]

Cape Cod!

Our book today is Henry David Thoreau’s beloved posthumous 1865 book Cape Cod, a collection of pieces he wrote for the Penny Press detailing trips he and a companion made to Cape Cod in 1849, 1850, and 1853. They tramped everywhere, in all weathers, and Thoreau’s razor-sharp observational powers caught every nuance of the local […]

Penguins on Parade: The Song of Roland!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve noted, become curious little gems in their own right, regardless of the advance of scholarship or textual history, and one of those is the 1957 translation of La Chanson de Roland done by renowned mystery novel author Dorothy Sayers. The Song of Roland, that massively popular medieval verse epic about […]

Penguins on Parade: Jason and the Argonauts!

Some Penguin Classics, however humbly and unassumingly, make some fairly large claims for themselves, or at least dare to dream big dreams. It’s certainly understandable: after all, the Penguin line has an illustrious history, and several of its editions have gone on to a textual life of their own. These editions are very often used […]

Six for the Ripper!

Just recently I was asked to recommend “the best books on Jack the Ripper,” and my immediate response, I’m almost ashamed to admit, was unabashedly Clintonian: it really depends on what’s meant by “best.” There’ve been thousands of books about the infamous Victorian serial killer who murdered at least five women in one of the […]

Penguins on Parade: Chateaubriand!

Some Penguin Classics would have been considered by their authors as only fitting, and one clear example of this would have to be Memoires d’outre-tombe by Francois-Rene, Vicomte de Chateaubriand, his “Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb,” which he worked on for the last fifteen years of his life and which were published shortly after his […]

Penguins on Parade: Untouchable!

Some Penguin Classics remain almost as startling on some levels now as they were when they were first published, and surely one such is the slim, darkly 1935 memorable novella Untouchable by the great Indian novelist Mulk Raj Anand, which chronicles the life and personal awakening of the handsome young boy Bakha, a member of […]

The Oxford Book of Letters!

Our book today is the delightful Oxford Book of Letters from the halcyon year 1995, a beautifully-produced and jam-packed thing edited by Frank and Anita Kermode and devoted, of course, to what is now axiomatically referred to as “the lost art” of letter-writing. Axiomatically, but not, I think, melodramatically; letters were tangible things, after all, […]

No Poems!

Our book today is a carefree little 1932 gem No Poems, Or, Around the World Backwards & Sideways that celebrated Algonquin Club wit and raconteur Robert Benchley. By the point in his career when Benchley was writing the kinds of friendly observational squibs that comprise this volume, he’d carved out a niche for himself doing […]

Book-list warmups in the Penny Press!

The long list for the National Book Award has been announced, so for one quick news cycle a few more people will be talking about books than otherwise would. The nonfiction list is a fairly disappointing assemblage of boring books: Nature’s God by Matthew Stewart (the likely winner, in my opinion), No Good Men Among […]


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