Shall I Project a World? A Meditation on The Crying of Lot 49

Thomas Pynchon has a reputation as a difficult novelist. If we come to his fictions fresh from the tradition of American Naturalism, we may be lulled by their humorous, jokey tone into a belief that all is most conventional. The writer is obviously just poking a little fun, engaging in a bit of satire. WeContinue reading “Shall I Project a World? A Meditation on The Crying of Lot 49

The Monster Under the Amusement Park: Arthur Miller’s Focus

In the opening of Arthur Miller’s Focus, Lawrence Newman awakens from a disturbing dream. “He was in some sort of amusement park. Before him stood a large carousel, strangely colored in green and purple patches. Somehow there were no people there. It was deserted for acres around him. And yet the carousel was moving. The brightlyContinue reading “The Monster Under the Amusement Park: Arthur Miller’s Focus

Nihilism at the OK Corral: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

I grew up with The Story. We all know The Story, the Story of America. We might sum it up as follows. Fleeing from religious persecution, a band of hardy European colonists settled on the shores of the “New World” and eventually founded a great and noble nation. Because of their high ideals, the peopleContinue reading “Nihilism at the OK Corral: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

Heroes and Hero Worship in Frank Herbert’s Dune

“For as I take it Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in his world, is at bottom the history of Great Men who have worked here. They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modelers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators of whatsoever the general mass of men contrivedContinue reading “Heroes and Hero Worship in Frank Herbert’s Dune

Becoming Visible: Ralph Ellison’s Classic in the era of Black Lives Matter

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau. I used to believe that racism was a thing of the past, a relic of a bygone era. Like polio or child labor, it had vanished into the pages of history. I imaginedContinue reading “Becoming Visible: Ralph Ellison’s Classic in the era of Black Lives Matter”

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