The Uses of Ambiguity: The Good Soldier Schweik

Ever since the time of Juvenal, and probably before, satirists have been hard at work deflating the pretensions of their societies and speaking truth to power with a wink and an air of feigned sincerity. Some, like Swift and Voltaire, channel their “savage indignation” into creating a better world. Others, like Pope, gently mock theContinue reading “The Uses of Ambiguity: The Good Soldier Schweik

Amphion’s Lyre

Toward the end of Horace’s treatise Ars Poetica, the author dips into the myths surrounding the origins of poetry to sprinkle his subject with magic. “While men still roamed the forests, they were restrained from bloodshed and a bestial way of life by Orpheus, the sacred prophet and interpreter of the gods – that isContinue reading “Amphion’s Lyre”

The Scraps of the Books: The Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith

“The story is simple. There was a boy who bought the planet earth. We know that, to our cost. It only happened once, and we have taken pains that it will never happen again.” These words begin one of the most surreal science fiction novels of all time, Norstillia by Cordwainer Smith. Along with TheContinue reading “The Scraps of the Books: The Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith”

The Mirror that Exploded: Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis

Stendahl once remarked that a novel is a mirror walking along a road. 1 This quote offers an apt metaphor since, of all the forms of literature, the novel often most closely reflects the society and movements of the times in which it is written. But in Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis, either the mirror or theContinue reading “The Mirror that Exploded: Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis

The Hammer and the Wing: A Meditation on Moby Dick

Of all the works of American writers, I love none so much as Moby Dick. There is a strangeness and a wildness to Melville’s great novel. Its gorgeous sentences roll over us like the vast ocean on which it is set, and its tragedy echoes in our hearts long after its narrative ceases to tollContinue reading “The Hammer and the Wing: A Meditation on Moby Dick

Preview of Upcoming Posts

Hello to all my wonderful followers! I apologize for the lack of recent posts. I received the proofs of my forthcoming book, Telegonos, a short time ago and have been working with the outstanding editorial team at Darkly Bright Press to polish the manuscript for publication. I am very excited, but it hasn’t left meContinue reading “Preview of Upcoming Posts”

Ancient Greek Pop Culture

Carl Sagan once remarked that to read a book is to voyage back in time and listen to the voices of the past. No sooner have we opened its pages than we may journey with the Okies or stand on the deck of a tall ship. For me, there has always been a peculiar fascinationContinue reading “Ancient Greek Pop Culture”

The Endless Labyrinth of Jorge Luis Borges

You begin to read this essay of the work of Jorge Luis Borges with the best intentions. You see that he was an Argentine writer born in 1899. You note with some wry amusement that he once published a review of a book that did not exist. But as you progress through the article’s openingContinue reading “The Endless Labyrinth of Jorge Luis Borges”

The Redemptive Power of Verse in The Tale of Kieu

We often read of brawny heroes like Achilles, who defeat their enemies with brute strength, or wily tacticians like Odysseus who nimbly outwit their foes. But perhaps no protagonist so surprises and delights us as Kieu, who overcomes injustice and adversity by the beauty of her poetry and the depth of her sorrow. Nguyen Du’sContinue reading “The Redemptive Power of Verse in The Tale of Kieu

Tolstoy’s People

Many great works of literature are built on a central paradox. Like the Penrose steps, they appear to lead one way or another, depending on our perspective. Is Dante‚Äôs great poem an allegory or a realistic narrative? Milton intended his depiction of Satan to explore the deceptive nature of evil, but he created in himContinue reading “Tolstoy’s People”