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

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”