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In Search of Penguin’s Proust

In the early 2000s, Penguin Books embarked on one of the most ambitious literary exercises in modern history. The publishing house had commissioned a complete English translation of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, the first time in 80 years anyone had taken a fresh stab at the 4,250 page leviathan as a … Continue reading

A tale of twists and turns

We take the the Odyssey for granted. Like with other essential heroes of the Canon–Ishmael, Sherlock Holmes, Jesus–the peregrinations of brave Odysseus are a kind of cultural birthmark, intimately known if less often read. Think about it. Even if you’ve never read one Homeric hexameter you likely already know the “good parts.” The seduction of the Siren’s … Continue reading

Wordsworth in the Month of May

William Wordsworth is a springtime poet. Even if read in a different season, his best ballads and sonnets seem fixed fast within the spring season — particularly, it seems, during the 31 days of May. Reading Wordsworth, you don’t come looking for autumn odes or lines composed on a January morning. No, if you could assign the … Continue reading

William Gaddis’ The Recognitions

The introduction to the Dalkey Archive edition of The Recognitions, William Gaddis’ first, longest, and most difficult novel, references a moment when the self-effacing author drew a picture of himself for a collection of essays. Appropriately, he left out the head. In a century that would have no shortage of “invisible novelists” Gaddis was not only … Continue reading

The Bloodiest, Most Stomach-Turning Book You’ve Ever Read

“All of European literature springs from a fight,” says a Classics professor in Philip Roth’s The Human Stain. He’s talking about Homer’s The Iliad, and what a nasty little story it is. A few lines from Book 4, during the first major battle scene between the Trojans and the Achians, offers a sanguine taste: Then fate fell upon … Continue reading