The Blazing World of Margaret Cavendish

A ruthless merchant kidnaps a beautiful young woman and takes her on board his ship. But as they make their way toward his home, a freak storm blows them off course. The terrified sailors helplessly fight against the wind and waves as their craft is drawn ever northward to the pole. One by one, theContinue reading The Blazing World of Margaret Cavendish”

Born to Be Eternal: Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf

At the dawn of the twentieth century, new technologies seemed to burst into existence like morning glories opening to the sun. The airplane and automobile shrank the globe while telephone and radio connected its inhabitants in unforeseen ways. Along with these innovations, fresh perspectives in the arts seemed to ripen on every intellectual tree andContinue reading “Born to Be Eternal: Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf

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”

How to Talk to Cats: Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

Searching for a way to describe a new style of painting in the 1920s, Franz Roh invented the term “magic realism.” However, like the fictions that would later bear this name, the designation showed little regard for neat distinctions between the various arts. With a wink, it quickly slipped away the frames of pictures andContinue reading “How to Talk to Cats: Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

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

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”