March 13, 2013  |  No Comments

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 first blog, which appears on the website of the Jewish Book Council:

Remember Mandy Patinkin’s character Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride? When Montoya was a child, the story … Read More

March 8, 2013  |  No Comments

A.D. Miller’s Snowdrops is a novel about Moscow, today’s Moscow, the one where somebody pays off gangsters to throw sulfuric acid in the eyes of the director of the Bolshoi. But in Snowdrops systemic graft has so compromised the criminal justice system that it barely appears at all in the midst of the anarchy. In … Read More

February 9, 2013  |  No Comments

Rabbinic tales about the famously wise King Solomon tell of his special ability to talk to animals and to apprehend the subtleties of nature. As such, the Solomon legends hold particular interest for Jonathan Rosen, who himself writes of birds and nature–and of those who write about birds and nature–with a rather Solomonic subtlety.

“Darwin did … Read More

December 26, 2012  |  No Comments

Ah, the holidays. The end of the year. When you celebrate by a cozy fire with the shiver of time in your fillings. When you cozy up to those you love best and those who therefore make you crazy. In other words, time to drink.

Melville House Books’s “Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary,” Intoxerated, a fun compendium of … Read More

December 12, 2012  |  No Comments

George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel 1984 could be the best prose ever written in the science fiction genre. Its anti-fascist themes remain relevant too. This description of an overzealous patriot beset by “war hysteria” may sound familiar to anyone who’s watched Bill O’Reilly on Fox News: “a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are … Read More

December 10, 2012  |  No Comments

You’d think with all the cocktails, a cocktail party ought to be more fun than a hole in your head. Twitter has been called a global-scale cocktail party. Unfortunately, it seems to lack the essential ingredient of the cocktails. To put it another way, it’s confessional poetry without the poetry.

What people sometimes call “confessional poetry,” … Read More

December 2, 2012  |  No Comments

As a child, I knew children’s author-illustrator Arnold Lobel for his fabulously funny, slyly philosophical Frog and Toad books. Lobel died young (downer), but he did create at least one other iconic animal character to help kids and adults alike through this bumpy journey called life: Owl.

Owl at Home shares the Frog and Toad books’ … Read More

November 21, 2012  |  No Comments

Like The Once and Future King and The Secret of Santa Vittoria, A High Wind in Jamaica straddles the disparate worlds of literature and entertainment, but it’s darker than either of those other books–somewhat less malevolent than Lord of the Flies maybe, but mordant in a way that Lord of the Flies isn’t because of … Read More

November 13, 2012  |  No Comments

Darrel Abel was born in Lost Nation, Iowa in 1911. He taught American literature at Purdue for many years, and at some point, working from the obscurity of Lisbon Falls, Maine, he produced a rather lovely little paper called “Robert Frost’s ‘Second-Highest Heaven’,” which he published in 1980. The paper’s title refers to a piece … Read More

November 1, 2012  |  No Comments

It generally takes a child no more than three or four ingenuous questions to reach a humbling horizon beyond which no intellect, whether adult or child or Stephen Hawking, has passed: the question of how the universe began. Whatever we learn about the past, the answer to the next question–what came before that–rears up on … Read More

September 30, 2012  |  No Comments

The speaker of Ovid’s “Contrite Lover” elegy in Amores reflects on a quarrel in which he struck his lover. Full of remorse, he asks this of his own hands: “What have I to do with you, servants of murder and crime?” (Amores I, 7, 27). As Hermann Fränkel puts it, the speaker “feels estranged from … Read More

September 2, 2012  |  No Comments

Ovid was “revered among Elizabethan pedagogues” according to R.W. Maslen (Shakespeare’s Ovid, p. 17). It sounds like a terrible fate, to be revered by a pedagogue, let alone a bunch of Elizabethan ones. I don’t know for certain what happens if one reveres you, but if one kisses you, I think you get warts. Or … Read More

August 29, 2012  |  No Comments

Book XV is more than the coda to the Metamorphoses. It too is a transformation. Here at the end of Ovid’s poem, he turns from fable to the real historical figure of Julius Caesar so that mythology itself metamorphoses into history. In this same Book, Ovid invites Pythagoras into the narrative as spokesman for the … Read More

August 19, 2012  |  No Comments

The middle of summer — July — if you walk west on Montague Street toward the harbor at around 6:30 in the evening, carrying your bag of black plums, the water is a gigantic cauldron of fire that sets upon every head a backlighting halo. It’s like something out of On Golden Pond except that … Read More

August 11, 2012  |  No Comments

Haim Watzman’s memoir of his years in reserve Company C of the Israeli infantry is a fine work of microscopy on the granulomatous sore of our modern-day Hundred Years War—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With prose that’s both poetic and journalistically economical, Watzman chronicles the larger conflict by looking closely at the small patch of it he’s … Read More