Critical Digressions: The Simple Violence of “The Sopranos”

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Since our incarnation as a destitute and sometimes diligent academic, we haven’t possessed a TV, much less cable. We lead a wonderfully Spartan life here in Cambridge, reading, writing, braving the Massachusetts winter. Like hermits, ascetics, Eskimos, or those lost natives of the Amazon with dangling members, it seems…

Critical Digressions: Literary Pugilists, Underground Men

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, After being attacked for a number of years by a new generation of literary critics – indeed, sucker-punched, phantom-punched, even body-slammed – “contemporary” (or “postmodern”) prose has hit back: in this month’s Harper’s, one of our favorite publications (less than $10.99 for an annual subscription), one Ben Marcus has…

Critical Digressions: The Naipaulian Imperative and the Phenomenon of the Post-National

Ladies and gentlemen, Naipaul is brilliant. Indeed, he is one of the finest writers the 20th century has produced. His book covers are often embellished with the following blandishment: “For sheer abundance of talent there can hardly be a writer alive who surpasses V.S. Naipaul.” We agree. His early comedies – Suffrage of Elvira, Miguel…

Critical Digressions

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Perusing the bargain shelf at the Harvard Bookstore this weekend, we picked up a bruised copy of the Kenneth Peacock Tynan’s biography and found ourselves charmed yet again by the man, his persona, and the caliber of his critical output. Hailed as “the greatest theater critic since Shaw,” Tynan…