The Cantos

(by Ezra Pound) The commonplace book of a madman, lines of breathtaking beauty (e.g. Canto IV, LXXIV, the closing fragments) jostle with crude, didactic ravings against usury and Jews. A pox on he who gave Pound an economics book! Or convinced him to attempt a poetic epic without structure, a theme or any cohesive idea at all. Still, it’s a lunatic mess well worth skimming.

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Burr

(by Gore Vidal) A knowing, rollicking account of the early Republic. Vidal smashes the Jeffersonian myth but creates a more interesting figure of history in lieu. Burr’s uneasy, half-respectful relationship with Alexander Hamilton, whom he ultimately killed in a duel, is particularly interesting, although contentiously handled. Vidal paints a vivid, unflattering portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the ultimate effect of which is to confirm his stature.  But it’s a close-run thing: here is Burr reflecting on the 3rd President: “He was the most charming man I have ever known, as well as the most deceitful. Were the philosopher’s charm less, the…

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Burial Rites

(by Hannah Kent) Once the reader accepts the book as a claustrophobic minuity, s/he will find this wintery Icelandic saga is worth the solitary confinement; a lucid and authentic small tale of murder and retribution, with as much cause for optimism as in a Ken Loach film. Ken Loach should buy the film rights. [Update note: Ms Kent’s second novel is due out.  No pressure, but….]

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Blood Meridian

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West (by Cormac McCarthy) The Addams Family out in the Old West have adventures of the type conceived by the bastard child of Hunter S Thompson and Zane Grey.  This windy road will have gratuitous blood, is not for old men and weirdos ride the pretty horses… Apparently multiple attempts to wring a film from this book have failed, which is not surprising, as it is heavy-handed, ludicrously-praised nonsense.

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The Black Spider

(by Jeremias Gotthelf) This highly effective creepy morality tale would (and may) have made Poe crap his britches.  

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