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Articles in absent friends

Good Grief: In Memory of Denis Johnson

June 1st, 2017
Good Grief: In Memory of Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson died last month, but we have his ten novels and his legacy: the inclination to see the great beauty only afforded by the stripping away of joy.

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.

Absent Friends: Lean Years of Plenty

June 1st, 2014
Absent Friends: Lean Years of Plenty

For a little over two years, shortly before she died, short story master Katherine Mansfield wrote a weekly book review column. Those pieces not only shed light on Mansfield’s particular slant of genius, but have much to say about the embattled art of reviewing.

Fifty Years to an Early Grave: The Bittersweet Career of Wallace Markfield

January 1st, 2014
Fifty Years to an Early Grave: The Bittersweet Career of Wallace Markfield

Wallace Markfield’s debut has faded from the literary landscape. That’s too bad, writes Matt Nesvisky, as this highly polished novel captures an important moment in American Jewish life.

Absent Friends: “Warm, funny, sad, true … It is Perfect”

February 1st, 2013
conflict of interest – brattle – oct 2012

“The proper function of a critic is to save a tale from the artist who created it” wrote D. H. Lawrence, but sometimes – most of the time – despite the best efforts of the best critics, both tale and artist disappear. What do we do with the criti-cal darlings of yesteryear, now filling the library bargain sale? And what of the critics, who called them imperishable?


September 1st, 2011

One of the most significant voices of the Harlem Renaissance was Jessie Redmon Fauset — novelist, essayist, translator, and editor. She’s become obscured behind many of the male writers she published, but Joanna Scutts returns her poignant work to the main stage

‘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.

Sophistication and Recklessness: Patrick Leigh Fermor

July 1st, 2011

With Patrick Leigh Fermor’s death, the world lost a gracious host, a tireless traveller, and one of the best prose stylists of the 20th century. We pause to appreciate him.

Absent Friends: The Harper in the Hall

July 1st, 2008

Though the American Civil War produced more and better books and writers than any single event in our country’s history, Bruce Catton is the greatest of its 20th century tellers. In this regular feature, Steve Donoghue tours the breathtaking work of an unfairly set-aside annalist.

Absent Friends: Gentle Poet

May 1st, 2008

At a poetry reading on the Palatine 2,000 years ago, you’d have spent a week’s pay to hear him read. Today he’s unknown, except to our Steve Donoghue (and a few of our readers, no doubt). Here, after a long time gone, is the Roman poet Tibullus.

Absent Friends: With a Little Help from Saint Martin

April 1st, 2008

Steve Donoghue exhumes the sprawling, illuminating writing of Gregory of Tours, the wrongly forgotten 12th-century saint, historian, and natural-born raconteur

Absent Friends: In Primordial Seas, They Glide

March 1st, 2008

In this regular feature, Steve Donoghue dives deep into the work of James Russell Lowell, whose splendid writing lurks in the basins of bookstore bargain carts, too often passed over for the smaller fry.

Absent Friends: Oh True Apothecary!

February 1st, 2008

In this regular feature, Steve Donoghue celebrates the books of the 17th-Century physician Nicholas Culpeper, whose medicine may be archaic but whose wisdom and literary merit are by no means obsolete.

Absent Friends: Between the River and the Mountains

January 1st, 2008

In our regular feature, Steve Donoghue revisits Giovanni Guareschi’s Little World of Don Camillo, an eternally comforting fictional oasis set in the heart of the Cold War.

Absent Friends: Our Jolly Round Whirling Earth

September 1st, 2007

Gun-and-net-toting naturalists seldom produce a better writer than William Beebe. In this regular feature, Steve Donoghue revisits the science writing of a more invasive age.

Absent Friends: Himself

July 1st, 2007

The only trouble with Sean O’Casey’s brilliant plays is that they overshadow
his magnificent memoirs. In our monthly feature, Steve Donoghue
tries to even the scales.

H.H. Kirst and the Problem of Evil

June 1st, 2007

What do we do with great novels by a writer who was also a Nazi? Steve Donoghue investigates the terrible conundrum of H.H. Kirst.

Absent Friends: That is Not Sad; This is Not Funny

May 1st, 2007

In this monthly feature, Adam Golaski resurrects the poetry of Paul Hannigan in all its acerbic and ominous brilliance

Absent Friends: It Wasn’t What He Wanted

April 1st, 2007

In this monthly feature, Steve Donoghue revisits the great life and writing of Gerald of Wales, a continuously frustrated candidate for the Archbishopric of Wales.

Absent Friends: Nicholas Monsarrat

March 1st, 2007

In this monthly feature, Steve Donoghue touts the overlooked sea novels of Nicholas Monsarrat.