Archive for Books

Toss the Word Salad…

I got up this morning wondering if I was “woke” without knowing exactly what that means. Earlier in the week two Fox News contributors criticized Joe Biden for worrying more about “wokeness” in the military than winning wars. One of them then added:

“The problem with Republicans is that we surrender the frame. We allow ourselves to be lulled into this concept that what we really need to be talking about is whether or not there are people who liked the wrong meme, or might be members of the wrong listserv, or get their news in the wrong places. Look in China right now, Tucker, they’re not doing gender sensitivity training. They’re not wondering whether or not their military is woke enough.”  read more

The City as a Character…

Most of us have a favorite city. New York, London, and Paris are high on most lists, but it could be any city. It becomes a favorite because we associate it with a visit, a person, or maybe even its skyline.

As a writer I’m interested in story telling but especially fond of those in which the city is not just a setting but a character. For example, it’s hard to think of anything by Charles Dickens’ – Bleak House, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, even A Christmas Carol – where the city in not omnipresent and interactive. Fred Schwarzbach, author of Dickens and the City says, “He teaches us to read the city like a book.” read more

The Importance of Being Ernest…

My last post drew a number of interesting comments, especially Marilynn’s belief that Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita could only have been written by someone who experienced or fantasized about what is described – a middle-aged professor’s sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl. Jon Maksik, a very good writer friend, pointed out such a belief could only come from an inability to separate the art from the artist. And now we have Ken Burns’ three-part documentary on Hemingway.  read more

Lolita is Back…

Marilynn and I have been battling for years over the derivation and significance of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov’s infamous 1955 novel. To refresh your memory, the first-person narrator is a middle-aged literature professor obsessed with a 12-year-old girl whom he nicknames Lolita and with whom he becomes sexually involved after marrying her mother. The premise is creepy, but the book is an acknowledged masterpiece of world literature often cited as one of the best books of the 20th century.

Our disagreement centers on her belief that the book could only have been written by someone who experienced or fantasized about what is described in its pages, while I think it’s a work of pure literary imagination. The Annotated Lolita unpacks my side of the story. The Nabokov text in The Annotated Lolita is 309 pages, but the book is itself is 455 pages, including Editor Alfred Appel Jr.’s 67-page introduction, 6 pages of bibliography, 6 pages of Nabokov notes, and 138 pages of annotations. Serious scholarship. read more

Then and Now…

In the waning days of World War II, France was deeply divided. Invaded in 1940, it quickly capitulated and for four years was humiliated by the German occupation and puppet government in Vichy. 

Local Resistance cells were established throughout the country to aid the Allies and Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle’s government in exile, but the majority of French citizens kept their heads down, went carefully about their business, and submitted to the humiliating occupation.  read more