Flaubert shows the reader early on that Madame Bovary’s flight from one place to another brings her no relief, for her complaint is with no particular place but the universe itself. She runs like a rat in a maze, finding each new place as damned and disappointingly real as the one before. She can’t stop … Read More
In 2006 David Foster Wallace wrote in the New York Times Magazine that you can appreciate tennis great Roger Federer even more “if you’ve played enough tennis to understand the impossibility of what you just saw him do.” I feel that way about Gustave Flaubert. It’s possible that you have to have worked as a … Read More
A number of the heavy-weights of Roman literature were freed slaves. Terence, for example, was an African slave, brought to Rome by a senator. His master became impressed with his literary talent and, insensitive to the demotion in quality of life and pay it would mean, freed him from slavery to become a playwright. Horace, … Read More
It was a magnetic Israeli poet-warrior who, during my second visit to Israel, thrust The Little Prince into my hands. He declared it his favorite book with an absolute conviction that, it must be said, characterized a large number of his statements. On the other hand the book obviously spoke to him personally and individually—so … Read More
English comedienne Katy Brand is by no means alone in her view that Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice “is still the ultimate English sex symbol.” Last year, in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic fiction publisher in fact looked to profit from the latent sexual energy in Jane Austen’s novels by … Read More
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the pompous, foolish clergyman Mr. Collins proposes marriage twice to two different women in a matter of days. The reactions he gets chart two different possibilities that at one time hung before Jane Austen herself. Heroine Elizabeth Bennett turns him down and afterwards Austen makes one of many funny commentaries on Mr. … Read More
As a recent article about skiing and climate change attests, poets have always been fascinated by snow. Eskimos, it is often said, have many words for the stuff. But what would the poets call the thick, hard substance spackling the cobblestones of Brooklyn’s Old Fulton Street last weekend? Maybe the Eskimo would look and say, … Read More
Last March, an archaeological survey in Japan turned up a 16-inch unexploded artillery shell near a bullet train track in north Tokyo. The trains were stopped in early June so the Japanese army could dispose of it. Such incidents are normal in post-war Japan; tons of unexploded ordnance are discovered and removed every year there and it’s … Read More
And yet what needs there here Excuse,
Where ev’ry Thing does answer Use?
Andrew Marvell wrote those lines long before anyone dreamed of the United States of America, but he could be asking the question of poetry itself in a land like America, where creative writers can be as careerist as bankers. Even … Read More
As a writer, I know this: Herman Melville’s novella Bartleby the Scrivener is either the most depressing thing ever written or the most inspiring. Though Melville was only 34 when he published it and lived on for 38 more years, it reads like his suicide note. On the other hand, the love that’s now lavished … Read More
Go here for a New York Times profile of Austin Ratner. That is my younger son in the picture. Only my older is mentioned in the article.
The blog tour for my new novel In the Land of the Living, continues with an author interview at The Whole Megillah:
BK: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you go from med school to the Iowa Workshop?
AR: This question always makes me think of Gonzo in The Muppet Movie. He tells Kermit and Fozzie he’s going to … Read More
The blog tour for my new novel In the Land of the Living, continues at Tablet Magazine’s Jewcy blog:
The old saw that “comedy is tragedy plus time” has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Lenny Bruce, Carol Burnett, and Woody Allen. That’s according to the Internet, a.k.a. bullshit at the speed of light. But … Read More
I will be blogging this week about my new novel In the Land of the Living, just released by Little Brown. Here is an excerpt of the third blog, an annotated playlist of songs and music alluded to and quoted from in my book. The blog appeared on David Gutowski’s music blog, Largehearted Boy:
In the … Read More
I will be blogging this week about my new novel In the Land of the Living, just released by Little Brown. Here is an excerpt of the second blog, which appears on the website of the Jewish Book Council:
Some academics have observed that young Jewish writers do not mine their personal lives for material in … Read More