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Category Archives: Reviews of Books

Review of a New Biography of Thoreau.


The University Bookman decided I was the right guy to review the new Thoreau biography, presumably because of all these years living off-grid and the defense of Thoreau I wrote when The New Yorker published its scandalous, fact-free attack on the man.  So I read the biography – a nice one, by Laura Dassow Walls – and […]

Paul Theroux’s Deep South.


I don’t know quite what to make of Paul Theroux. I think his resume is very interesting – a Peace Corps volunteer who taught in Malawi (falling afoul of the mad Classicist-Dictator Hastings Banda and getting kicked out of the country), teaching for a few more years before getting a book published and then winning […]

Bob Dylan, Conscience of a Generation.


A few weeks ago I was cleaning up after a party at my house and came upon a paper bag full of books which a guest had apparently left as a gift.  They were all recent books, the kind of stuff that makes me hate being in bookstores – I always feel like I have […]

Ian Caldwell and the Catholic Church.


Despite the clickbait title about the Pope’s bedroom, this is a fine, thoughtful essay about Ian Caldwell’s research into the intellectual life of the Catholic Church and in particular the lives of married priests.  Caldwell researched the topic with his customary thoroughness for his new novel, The Fifth Gospel. I did the Latin for the book. […]

Cheryl Strayed’s Initiation.


I think it is entirely to Cheryl Strayed’s credit as a writer and as a human being that she can write a book which one reviewer – admittedly, not a very observant one – can reduce to the question “What do you have to say now, God?” while I find it religious in outlook and […]

Scott and Helen Nearing’s Serious Good Life.


A friend lent me the one-volume edition of Helen and Scott Nearing’s The Good Life and Continuing the Good Life a few months ago, and since that time I have worked on it in leaps and starts. The blurb on the back of the book advertises it very well, and explains why I was willing […]

Talk About Damning With Faint Praise


“The best written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan’s Chronicles.” – The Telegraph describing Morrissey’s Autobiography.

The Memory of Old Jack, by Wendell Berry.


Certain things in life surprise me, though I suppose they shouldn’t. Two days ago I visited a large New York City Barnes and Noble – one of those multiple-level bookshops where thousands upon thousands of titles are on the shelves – and I asked if they had any Wendell Berry books. Berry has written more […]

The Game by Neil Strauss.


Generally if a book recurs in conversation time and again for years, I get around to reading it. As a single person who has never had any particular desire to be single, dating is a common theme of discussion, and one of the standard variants of that discussion occurs when I speak with my some […]

Clive James, Cultural Amnesia.


Several years ago one of my college professors asked me if I was reading Clive James. (The implication was that I should be.) I told him I had never heard of him. He was shocked: James was a regular contributor to those learned periodicals that a certain class of people consider obligatory reading for intelligent […]