Selected older pieces, by category
Note: The flags indicate the languages that pieces are written in. (I'm American, so I use Old Glory for English. Sorry, Brits!)
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In alphabetical order, by the name of author reviewed. General essays and omnibus reviews at the end.
On Isabella Allende's The Stories of Eva Luna WALL STREET JOURNAL
"There is a
richness in this book- and it is, in its finest moments, a richness not only of
language but of life."
On Lisa Alther's Bedrock WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Consistently, Ms. Alther's wit gives breath and bite to what might otherwise seem contrived."
On Laura Argiri's The God in Flight
WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, March 12, 1995
"Arguably the best novel ever written about gay male love is by a woman, Mary Renault. Admirers of that book, The Charioteer, may experience moments of déjà vu while reading Laura Argiri's ambitious first novel..."
On David Attoe's Lion at the Door WALL STREET JOURNAL
"In an age of arid brat-pack minimalism, Lion at the Door is a welcome relief, and a most promising debut."
On Louis Auchincloss's Collected Stories NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, December 4, 1994
"Yes, Mr. Auchincloss's social-register characters and stately prose often bring Wharton and James to mind; for some of us, that is not an unpleasant experience"
On Louis Auchincloss's Fellow Passengers WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, March 28, 1989
"Many contemporary novelists are drawn to the subject of millionaires and their money; Auchincloss' concern, however, is not with wealth per se but with the ways in which rich people's means of earning, preserving, spending and losing their fortunes illuminate the principles by which they live."
Introduction to Louis Auchincloss, 92nd Street Y, New York, November 1, 2004
"But why, we may ask, shouldn't a first-rate novelist be as dependable as a first-rate trust attorney?"
On David Leeming's biography of James Baldwin WASHINGTON TIMES
"Mr. Leeming helps one to appreciate the strength of character that enabled Baldwin, in a time of ideological polarization, to steer what he saw as a responsible middle course."
On John Banville's Shroud NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, March 16, 2003
"In his novels, truth is elusive, but it matters; the self may be a prison built on shifting ground, but it exists."
On John Banville's The Book of Evidence WALL STREET JOURNAL, April 6, 1990
"Like Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier...The Book of Evidence is a cannily constructed novel about sex, betrayal and self-deception, a novel whose narrator's testimony is egregiously unreliable and laced with internal contradictions."
On Louis Begley's As Max Saw It NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, April 24, 1994
"If Henry James had written an AIDS novel, one imagines that it would have looked very much like Louis Begley's As Max Saw It."
On Wendell Berry's Fidelity NEW CRITERION, November 1992
"His philosophy makes no allowance for certain ways of thinking and feeling and loving; he seems unwilling to accept that the human family is full of differences, that they make life more interesting, and that it is in cities, not rural areas, that these differences tend to be most tolerated."
On Julia Blackburn's The Leper's Companions NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, April 18, 1999
"Among much else, one comes away from this book with a strong sense of how deeply grounded the spiritual is in the physical, and of the degree to which modern comforts and conveniences, by insulating us from nature, also distance us from God."
On Allan Bloom's Love & Friendship INSIGHT, July 19, 1993
"Even a reader who strongly shares Bloom's alarm about the cheapening of sex may find it illogical to try to draw lessons about that process from a comparison of the inner life of the average American today with that of Anna Karenina or Mark Antony."
On Wayne Booth's The Company We Keep THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR
"For a critic who addresses Big Questions, he says precious little that is fresh, perceptive, or startling; he seems to have aimed no higher than meticulousness and modesty."
On Breyten Breytenbach's Memory of Snow and of Dust WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...the reader yearns for one simple statement, one unflowery description."
On Douglas Brinkley's The Majic [sic] Bus WALL STREET JOURNAL
"What does it mean to have a 'fresh new perspective' on sonething of which one is essentially ignorant?"
On Harold Brodkey's The Runaway Soul NEW CRITERION, January 1992
"Oh, the humanity...!"
On Frederick Busch's A Memory of War NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, February 16, 2003
"For history's wounded, the making of stories is vital, curative; it provides something to build on and cling to."
On A.S. Byatt's The Matisse Stories NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, April 30, 1995
"Ms. Byatt deftly juggles an impatience with feminist ideology and a sharp insight into female sensibilities."
On Gerald Clarke's biography of Truman Capote WALL STREET JOURNAL
"To read Capote is to have the sense that someone has put together all the important pieces of this consummate artist's life, has given everything its due emphasis, and comprehended its ultimate meaning."
On Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's WALL STREET JOURNAL, April 19, 2008
"If Norman Mailer was, or at least sought to be, the postwar generation's answer to Hemingway, Truman Capote was its F. Scott Fitzgerald -- elegiac, lyrical, a pitch-perfect literary stylist who memorably dismissed his slapdash Beat Generation contemporaries in five words: 'that's not writing, that's typing.'"
On Ann Charters's The Portable Beat Reader
NEW CRITERION, April 1992
"For a generation, people who pride themselves on not falling for a television ad for Dow Chemical or Archer Daniels Midland have allowed themselves to be taken in by the Beats’ slickly marketed corporate image..."
On John Cheever's Journals NEW CRITERION
throughout these annals of quiet desperation, Cheever bares depths of emotion
and experience that, had he felt freer to explore them in his fiction, could
have helped him to become the more substantial, less confined artist he longed
On Evan S. Connell's Collected Stories WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"...at his best Connell depicts middle-class America with dispassion and clarity, attending not only to Joe and Betty Sixpack's philistinism but also to the vanity of bohemians and the snobbery of artsy sophisticates."
On Jim Crace's Quarantine WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, May 3, 1998
"Not only does Crace have the audacity to make Jesus a virtual secondary character; he serves up a Jesus whose personal imperfections... might induce many a conservative Christian to denounce this book as sacrilegious."
On Guy Davenport's life and career BOOKFORUM, April/May 2005
"It is hard to believe that Guy Davenport is dead, for few writers in our time have seemed so abundantly alive."
On Guy Davenport's The Hunter Gracchus THE STRANGER
"Sentence by sentence, Guy Davenport’s essays remind us of what matters."
On Guy Davenport's A Table of Green Fields WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, December 19, 1993
"He’s hardly a household name, but for a small company of literate readers, Guy Davenport is almost a household god."
On Tom DeHaven's Funny Papers WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"...you only have to look at the cover...to recognize it as an example of the Three-Ring Circus School of Literature."
On Annie Dillard's The Writing Life AMERICAN SCHOLAR
"...she comes off not as a 'habitan' (to borrow Whitman's word) of God's creation but as a gushing tourist, too zealous and impatient in her quest for the Absolute, too quick to assert her discovery of it, and too passive in her ultimate relation to it."
On E.L. Doctorow's Billy Bathgate WASHINGTON TIMES
"Whatever ti has to say about organized crime and American society was said years ago, and more eloquently, by Francis Coppola's film The Godfather."
On E.L. Doctorow's City of God HUDSON REVIEW, Autumn 2000
"Gradually, one comes to recognize that most of Doctorow's distortions of the Episcopal Church are thoroughly deliberate."
On Bruce Duffy's Last Comes the Egg WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"Ultimately, Duffy gives us too much of the world as a teenager finds it and too little of that world as recollected, shaped and comprehended over two decades by the mature consciousness of a man of 39."
On Fernanda Eberstadt's The Furies NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, September 14, 2003
"Eberstadt manifestly wants to come across in these pages as a fearless adversary of all things facile and ignorant, but those attributes, alas, pervade her meditations on love, sex and commitment."
On Fernanda Eberstadt's Isaac and His Devils WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...a novel of real moral seriousness..."
On Per Olav Enquist's The Royal Physician's Visit NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, November 18, 2001
"Perhaps the most astonishing thing of all about this story that astonishes at every turn is that it took this long for someone to come along and tell it."
On Louise Erdrich's Tracks WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Ms. Erdrich - who seems to have made it her special mission to enhance the corpus of Native American literature - generally does a poorer job with Native American characters than with Caucasians."
On F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby WALL STREET JOURNAL, July 29, 2006
"The book is inhabited both by Fitzgerald's robust romanticism and his sense of moral censure -- each elegantly tempering the other."
On the selected letters of E.M. Forster, volume 2 WASHINGTON TIMES
"At times one cannot help but want more - a fuller sense of Mr. Forster's emotional life, a richer portion of literary opinion and history and gossip."
On Ernest Gaines's A Lesson before Dying WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...he understandis the workings of institutional prejudice and captures perfectly the complex tensions between black and white."
On David Gates's Jernigan WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...a book with plenty of sharp and witty lines but little resonating in the spaces between them."
On The Novellas of Martha Gellhorn WALL STREET JOURNAL
"'Isn't it virtuous of me,' she often seems to be saying, ' to notice the details of these coarse little lives?'"
On André Gide & the biography by Alan Sheridan HUDSON REVIEW, Autumn 1999
"As Sheridan convincingly argues, Gide never stopped being, in his own way, a Protestant missionary."
On William Goyen's Half a Look of Cain THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, July 17, 1994
"Goyen's paramount concern is with the ways in which people connect, commune and create, with the ways they hurt and heal one another and with the capacity of everyone to do good or evil. We are brothers; yet brotherhood can lead, as it did with Cain, to fratricide."
On Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Life and Fate is a testament to the strength of character that terrorized human souls are capable of attaining."
On Allan Gurganus's White People WALL STREET JOURNAL
"At times, one feels as if White People should have been titled White Guilt."
On Eva Heller's With the Next Man Everything Will Be Different WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Readers who think Germans have no sense of humor will be pleasantly surprised...."
On Mark Helprin's A Soldier of the Great War WASHINGTON TIMES
"...it rises, at its best, to extraordinary levels of intelligence, imagination and poignancy."
On Mark Helprin's Memoir from Antproof Case WASHINGTON TIMES
"All the usual best-seller ingredients are here in profusion, so much so that it's clear Mr. Helprin is, at least in part, making fun of the standard pop-fiction formula."
On James Mellow's biography of Ernest Hemingway WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Mr. Mellow's Hemingway seems less often brave than blustering, less often the master of his own temperament than a petulant bully..."
On Alice Hoffman's Seventh Heaven WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Manifestly, she means to say something about what Robert Lowell called 'the tranquillized Fifties.' But what?"
On Maureen Howard's Natural History WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...one clear point emerges from these pages: that life exists to be examined, even if it yields no simple, fixed truths."
On John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany WASHINGTON TIMES
"...the reader may feel as if he's picked up a discarded first version of...The World according to Garp."
On Ismail Kadare's The Palace of Dreams WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Mr. Kadare has composed not only a courageous indictment of Marxist tyranny but a remarkable literary work of international stature."
On Ismail Kadare's The Pyramid NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, April 28, 1996
"Mr. Kadare paints a hypnotic picture of a world drenched in death and crowded with stones."
On Nicholas Murray's biography of Franz Kafka WILSON QUARTERLY, Autumn 2004
"Kafka's stark visions of estrangement, persecution, and punishment have been read as prophesies of Nazism and Stalinism, yet their origins often lie not in any encounter with authoritarian power but in domestic or romantic conflicts that wouldn't seem out of place on Beverly Hills 90210."
On Alfred Kazin's God and the American Writer and Janice Radway's A Feeling for Books HUDSON REVIEW
"Kazin and Radway mark two ends of a spectrum. He clings heroically— quixotically?—to his canon; she rejects the very notions of taste and value on which that canon is based."
On John LeHeureux's The Miracle NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, October 27, 2002
"...as L'Heureux reminds us on nearly every page, people are imperfect, lacking in willpower, infirm in their beliefs, their lives cluttered and unfocused, their character traits largely impervious to change....Yet love can work through them to effect wonders."
On Michael Wreszin's biography of Dwight Macdonald WASHINGTON TIMES
"...the sort of reckless subversion of tradition that he celebrated politically he could not countenance culturally..."
On Peter Manso's oral biography of Norman Mailer WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Mr. Mailer seeks truth in action and identity in madness."
On Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost NEW CRITERION, January 1992
"...who but the author of Marilyn could have created the double agent who tells Harry that 'the glamour attached to the possession of nuclear missiles' is 'equal to sex with a movie star'?"
On Norman Mailer's The Time of Our Time HUDSON REVIEW, Winter 1999
"It's thanks to his celebrity, surely, that Mailer continues to be lavishly published and to be prominently reviewed. Yet do people really read him anymore?"
On David Maine's Fallen NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, October 30, 2005
"...to read 'Fallen' is to be constantly aware that for the 6 out of 10 Americans who think the world was created precisely as described in Genesis, this is a historical novel."
On David Malouf's The Great World WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...a passionate, penetrating and remarkably powerful book about nothing less than what it means to be human."
On Martha McPhee's Gorgeous Lies NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, September 15, 2002
"If McPhee's first novel was a case of relatively orthodox storytelling, her second is a free-associative jumble of memory and emotion that makes the reader feel like a family therapist on marathon duty."
On Alice McDermott's At Weddings and Wakes WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...a haunting and masterly work of literary art."
On Fred Hobson's biography of H.L. Mencken WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"...to Mencken all of life was a show - a distraction from what he saw as the meaninglessness of existence."
On Ib Michael's Prince NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, December 12, 1999
"The narrator's migration from flesh to flesh leaves a potent impression of life as a miraculous force, an imperishable essence that survives the individual's life span to bring youth, summer, delight -- princedom -- to generation after generation."
On Mary McGarry Morris's A Dangerous Woman WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...this is a book that needs a sense of vision, of the transcendent; and the plain fact is that these dialogue-heavy pages never rise above the quotidian."
On Nicholas Mosley's Children of Darkness and Light WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"If there is any consolation in this hurting world, it is that God is with us in our torment..."
On R.K. Narayan's Talkative Man WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"Narayan brings to life people who are as familiar with casting calls as with the caste system, who quote from the Bhagavad-Gita and Shelley with equal facility, who marry at the age of 9 and earn BAs at 20, and who invoke the name of a Hindu god one minute and that of Errol Flynn the next."
On Deirdre Bair's biography of Anais Nin NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, March 5, 1995
"Nin took infidelity to new imaginative heights."
On Joyce Carol Oates's American Appetites WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"Oates captures something of the small quiet terror of daily existence, the ever-present sense of the possibility of chaos."
On Edna O'Brien's House of Splendid Isolation WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Ms. O'Brien turns Josie's remote cottage, a house divided, into a metaphor for Ireland itself."
On Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Tim O'Brien is to the Vietnam War what Tom Clancy is to international intrigue."
On Christopher Osborn's A Sense of Touch WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Often one isn't sure what point Mr. Osborn seeks to make about these relationships."
On the biography of Walker Percy by Jay Tolson WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, October 11, 1992
"Percy the Catholic was less a congregant than a lone prophet."
On David Plante's The Accident WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, May 19, 1991
"...what differentiates this novel from the lackluster minimalistic fiction it resembles in some respects is its author's ability to convey, in a quiet and unobtrusive way, a sense of the mystery that lies beyond the mundane, and his insistence upon the abiding relevance of the Important Questions..."
On Richard Powers's Gain NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, June 21, 1998
"...to read Powers's story of the shaping of today's commercial culture is to feel as if one has never before seen that culture quite so clearly or acquired such a vivid understanding of the dynamic, generations-long process that brought it into being."
On Richard Powers's Operation Wandering Soul WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, June 13, 1993
"At its best, one might say, Powers's prose itself soars like the most magnificent of choirs, memorably capturing the moments of joy and anguish, barrenness and grace, that add up to life."
On Reynolds Price's The Promise of Rest WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, July 16, 1995
"There's nearly always been a distant formality in Price's fiction, as if he were erecting a battlement of words to protect some vulnerable private place; here that quality is less pronounced than usual."
On V.S. Pritchett's Lasting Impressions WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"...what virtually all the books under discussion have in common is that they offer him an opportunity to write about what really interests him: namely, human behavior, manners, morals, the way people live."
On Francine Prose's Primitive People WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...one wishes she'd look more deeply into these people so that we might not only laugh but care."
On Marcel Proust's life & work HUDSON REVIEW, Autumn 2001
"On every page, Proust reminds us how rich life is with things of beauty that we never recognize as such and with depths of meaning that we never bother to plumb, let alone articulate fully and precisely."
On James Purdy's Gertrude of Stony Island Avenue NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, August 30, 1998
"Love, death, family, emotional estrangement -- these are among Purdy's major themes, and few writers have written less sentimentally about any of them."
On Nino Ricci's The Book of Saints WALL STREET JOURNAL
"....a wise, poignant, and poised novel about the sacredness of everyday life and the saintly valor and virtue of which ordinary people are capable."
On Paul Russell's The Salt Point WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...a wise, tender, and remarkably engrossing story about human affections - their power and illogic, their preciousness and unpredictability..."
On Delmore Schwartz's correspondence with James Laughlin NEW CRITERION, May 1992
correspondence tells a poignant story not only of a business relationship but of
a close friendship in which the Brooklyn-born Schwartz’s emotional dependence
upon his editor is as manifest as Laughlin’s devotion to him."
On Scott Spencer's Secret Anniversaries WALL STREET JOURNAL
"It's all as synthetic as can be."
On Sur Plusiers Beaux Sujects: Wallace Stevens' Commonplace Book
NEW CRITERION, September 1990
"...virtually all the quotations reflect, in some way, Stevens's preoccupation with truth, beauty, the character of the artist, the ordering role of the creative intellect, and the relation between everyday reality and the reality of art."
On David Sweetman's biography of Mary Renault WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 25, 1993
"To the argument that 'women had never produced a Shakespeare or a Beethoven because they had been kept at the kitchen sink,' Renault responded sardonically: 'as if you could keep Shakespeare at a sink, if she was Shakespeare she wouldn't let you.'"
On Tom Robbins's Skinny Legs and All WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Mr. Robbins has ideas to communicate here, but they are mostly fatuous and familiar, and he fails to discover a satisfactory objective correlative for any of them."
On Rick Rofihe's Father Must WALL STREET JOURNAL
The stories are "so short, fast, hip, and disjointed that they make Tama Janowitz (remember her?) look like Henry James."
On Joan Shelley Rubin's The Making of Middlebrow Culture NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, April 12, 1992
"For many a reader, finally, the chief problem with -- and ultimate irony of -- The Making of Middlebrow Culture may be that it is itself, for the most part, resolutely middlebrow."
On Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh INSIGHT, February 12, 1996
"Magic realism at its best comes off as an act of reverence for the world, an expression of awe at its beauty, richness and mystery; at its worst the effect is that of an overambitious writer straining for effect but failing to imagine his way into the heartbreaking silences and vulnerabilities of a solitary human heart."
On Nathan Shahan's Bone to the Bone WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...an impressively imagined study of a man who comes off as a representative 20th-century figure without ever ceasing to be a plausible individual."
On Matthew Stadler's Landscape: Memory WALL STREET JOURNAL
"His aim is not merely to proffer romantic fantasies but to reflect upon some of life¨'s harder facts: that youth is a time of unattainable ideals, adulthood a time of grim realities, and memory and art forever imperfectible."
On Allan Stein & other novels by Matthew Stadler HUDSON REVIEW, Spring 1999
"To be a truly serious literary artist is to accept and to plumb one's deepest and most distinctive obsessions, and Stadler, with each book, has engaged his obsessions more and more boldly and explicitly."
On James Longenbach's study of Wallace Stevens NEW CRITERION, June 1992
"Longenbach generally seems to be talking not about the poems but around them."
On Hjalmar Söderberg's The Serious Game NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, May 26, 2002
"For Soderberg, life isn't a matter of applying strict moral rules but of trying to meet unforeseeable challenges in a reasonably civilized fashion."
On Allen Tate and the Agrarians HUDSON REVIEW, Spring 2002
"At a time...when America’s intellectual elite should have been lifting high the torch of democracy, Tate and company were serving up proposals for social change derived from the pre-Civil War slaveholding states and the French fascist movement."
On Uwe Timm's Headhunter WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...a meditation on the anthropological meaning of '80s financial wheeler-dealering...a reflection on the mystery of life, language and computerized banking systems."
On Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"Tyler is a master at capturing the evolution of families over time, at poignantly conveying a sense of the long, slow decades during which nothing much seems to happen while in fact everything is happening."
On Linn Ullmann's Grace NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"Since Ullmann is the daughter of Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman, it's hardly surprising that this book is bleak and quintessentially Scandinavian, at once an austere portrait of mature couplehood that recalls 'Scenes From a Marriage' and a meditation on mortality, replete with echoes of 'Wild Strawberries' and 'The Seventh Seal.'"
On Alex Ullmann's Afghanistan WALL STREET JOURNAL, October 15, 1991
"Dazzlingly written, impeccably shaped and strangely moving, this story of fathers, sons and the mystery of manhood marks a fresh and luminous debut." Ullmann's obituary.
On Sigrid Undset's Jenny NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, June 3, 2001
"Paradoxically, Undset was at once her nation's most conspicuous violator of traditional sex roles and (in a series of notorious antifeminist jeremiads) their most vocal champion..."
On John Updike's More Matter: Essays and Criticism HUDSON REVIEW, Spring 2000
"For Updike, seemliness is paramount. And this, to my mind, is his distinctive failing as a writer: that he has exalted charm and mannerliness above all else..."
On John Updike's Odd Jobs WALL STREET JOURNAL, November 21, 1991
"The more one reads this book, the more one wonders: What passions rule this man? What makes him fume? Do any young novelists knock his socks off?"
On John Updike's Self-Consciousness WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Updike has made clear, in various places, his enthusiasm for Karl Barth's view of God as 'Wholly Other'; his coolly clinical approach to character gives one the impression that he considers his fellow man, too, to be Wholly Other."
On John Updike's Memories of the Ford Administration WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, November 1, 1992
"...Alf s gripes about American decline and his sophomoric outlook...make him sound very much like an academic version of Updike's late, lamented alter ego, Harry Angstrom."
On Gore Vidal's At Home WALL STREET JOURNAL
"...whereas Oscar Wilde reversed familiar expressions in order to provide a fresh look at reality...Vidal often turns the truth itself on its head."
On Rebecca West's This Real Night WASHINGTON TIMES
"A lot of the behavior derscribed in this novel...doesn't ring true."
On Edmund White's The Farewell Symphony WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"He began his literary career as the very model of the novelist as creator of austere, impersonal 'made objects'; he has ended up as one of America's premier practitioners of the novel as forthright personal confession."
"An impersonal passion": Thornton Wilder HUDSON REVIEW, Autumn 2008
"Why...can it seem as if Thornton Wilder has fallen between the cracks?"
On Jeffrey Meyers's biography of Edmund Wilson WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, June 2, 1995
"In these days when jargon-ridden works of academic theory pass for state-of-the-art literary criticism, Edmund Wilson has become for many humanistic critics and literary journalists the quintessential symbol of The Way Things Used To Be."
On Jeanette Winterson's Gut Symmetries NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, May 11, 1997
"Rather than play on our sympathies, she takes us into her narrators' minds, showing how experience collides with belief and learning, how people labor to construct ideas by which to live."
On Tobias Wolff's In Pharaoh's Army NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, November 27, 1994
"Mr. Wolff, who demonstrated in This Boy's Life his gift for capturing in terse declarative sentences a variety of discrete, elusive boyhood sensations, has done much the same thing in his new memoir for discrete, elusive wartime sensations."
On various poets, I HUDSON REVIEW, Summer 2000
A review of America's Favorite Poems, Samuel Hazo, Wyatt Prunty, Jorie Graham, Lynn Emanuel, Baron Wormser, Donald Hall, Patricia Goedicke, and Frederick Turner.
On various poets, II HUDSON REVIEW, Autumn 2001
A review of R.S. Gwynn, J. Allyn Rosser, Phillis Levin, Louise Glück, Ralph Black, Michael McFee, and Richard Tillinghast.
On various poets, III HUDSON REVIEW, Winter 2004
A review of Poets against the War, Robert Lowell, Joseph Harrison, Timothy Murphy, Gerry Cambridge, and Deborah Warren.
On various poets, IV HUDSON REVIEW, Spring 2006
A review of Daniel Hoffman, Wendell Berry, Kay Ryan, Anne Stevenson, B. H. Fairchild, and Billy Collins.
On several Nordic novels HUDSON REVIEW, Autumn 2003
A review of novels by Amalie Skram, Sigurd Hoel, Hans Kirk, Hallgrímur Helgason, Jens Christian Grøndahl, Erik Fosnes Hansen, Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund.
On literary life in the 1990s NEW CRITERION, September 1991