Review of Melissa McCormick, The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: Suppose you don’t honestly want to read Tale of Genji, but you want to want to read it. The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion could help with this. Because! When you look at a picture, say, of some random-to-you dude (with an attendant) peeping through a fence at a busy scene with women chasing a sparrow, you just naturally want to know what’s up. Who are these people. Why is he peeping. Why are they chasing. You imagine the better and more cultured version of yourself who might spot this image in a museum and turn to whomever-you’re-with and go: “Oh!! I know what this is! This is the scene from Tale of Genji where [blah blah blah]…!” That would be a tasty moment, you must admit.

[originally posted Wednesday 9 January 2019]

Review of D.H. Lawrence, The Poems, Volume III: Uncollected Poems and Early Versions

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: What we have here is the fortieth (and final) volume in the Cambridge Edition of the Works of D.H. Lawrence. The textual embalmers have been at it for more than forty years, and their work is finally complete. There must be a couple graduate students in a space station somewhere, high-fiving just now. They’ve been waiting since 1979. Now they can write their chapters.

[originally posted Wednesday 9 January 2019]

Review of The Labyrinth, by Saul Steinberg

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: I turn the pages of this book in a state of outrage that anyone could have been gifted with this much talent. I keep saying aloud: “Son of a bitch!” “Goddammit!” “Fucking no. NO. You can’t be this good. No one can be this good!”

[originally posted Thursday 6 December 2018]

Review of Hesiod I: Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia; Hesiod II: The Shield, Catalogue of Women, Other Fragments, edited and translated by Glenn M. Most

At Rhino.

Teaser quoteWorks and Days is a little bit like a poem that might have been written in an 18th-century madhouse. There’s little personal bits, loads of advice (some of it patently cuckoo), and then miles of simply joyous description of natural phenomena, in the gnomic mode.

[originally posted Thursday 6 December 2018]

Æsop Again

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: I felt I must warn the young as I had been warned: “Lessons are bad. Talking animals are bad. Anything that smacks of the Middle Ages is bad.” Today I think the opposite, straight down the line. Lessons are good; talking animals, hell yes. And anything that smacks of the Middle Ages is probably my only reason for getting up in the morning.

[originally posted Wednesday 21 November 2018]

On Æsop’s Fables

At The Paris Review Online:

Teaser quote: The ants all gathered ’round and said, Ah-hah, you are justly served for being such a lazybones! Now starve, shithead.

[originally posted Wednesday 7 November 2018]

Two microreviews for Rhino: Jonathan Swift + Vanessa Couto Johnson



Teaser quote, from the Couto Johnson review: Now, the first thing a beginner would do with this format is decide it’s uninteresting to have all the prose stanzas be end-stopped. Indeed, beginners only choose forms so they can immediately make them more “interesting” by defeating every last molecule of reason for having the form in the first place. VCJ is not like that. She selected this form because of what it does; then she proceeds to exploit its potential.

[originally posted Monday 5 November 2018]

Davenport’s Mao

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: See how these bums operate? They don’t know Chinese, but they know something. They always know something, and they make that something seem like everything.

[originally posted Wednesday 26 September 2018]

Baby Talk

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: In one of my poems I call babies “the crying people.” Heard plenty of that. The ones that said things were a bit older. The tiny ones gurgle.

[originally posted Wednesday 12 September 2018]

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Teaser quote: By subscribing to Book Post you not only treat yourself to two first-rate book reviews a week, direct to your in-box (starting September 10), but support a more healthy reading environment where writers are paid, data is not mined, independent bookstores are sustained, and readers are encouraged to come together across the land around books and ideas. Now through September 10 you can get a one-year subscription at the bargain-basement price of $30.


Until September 10 however our Book Post Summer Vacation continues, with all our posts for free: Padgett Powell, Jamaica Kincaid, Joy Williams, Geoffrey O’Brien, Michael Robbins, and more to come! So please sign up, follow, enjoy, and share; help us make this a lasting and wide-ranging project.

[originally posted Tuesday 4 September 2018]

Microreview of Zen Master Yunmen: His Life and Essential Sayings

At Rhino.


Teaser quote: Someone asked Master Yunmen, “What is the absolute concentration that comprehends every single particle of dust?” The Master replied, “Water in the bucket, food in the bowl.” [= Blue Cliff Record §50; Record of Serenity §99; Dōgen’s Sanbyakusoku §158].


[originally posted Wednesday 5 September 2018]

Microreview of The Yangtze Valley and Beyond, by Isabella Bird

At Rhino.


Teaser quote: I know what you’re thinking. Rather than drop $112 on the Folio version, why not get a copy of the original John Murray, 1899—gotta be cheaper than $112, right? Wrong. First editions of that little guy will run you twice that. There might be some way around this, but I haven’t found it. It appears to me that the Folio version is the one to beat.

[originally posted Wednesday 5 September 2018]

Ovidian Taste Test

At The Paris Review Online.


Teaser quote: You probably know it’s no easy thing, judging between rival verse translations, especially when they were produced before the 19th century. The good news has always been that it hardly matters how difficult a task is, when no one’s gonna do it. Easy, hard: comes to the same thing. Yet somebody has to go in there. Somebody born after 1960.


[originally posted Wednesday 29 August 2018]