Banville on Beckett: Can There Be An “Abstract Literature”?

Can there be an “abstract literature”? In his review of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume II: 1941–1956 John Banville says No. At best, abstract writing can aspire to some form of, to quote Beckett, “nominalistic irony.” Banville  rejects Pascale Casanova’s claim that Beckett’s Worstward Ho was “the triumphant culmination of Beckett’s effort to forge an “abstract” literature,” a “pureContinue reading “Banville on Beckett: Can There Be An “Abstract Literature”?”

Chiasson on Pinsky: Meeting Poetry with More Poetry

Reviews of poets and poetry can often be tedious: the poet is sometimes trampled by the reviewer’s exegesis and analysis; sometimes we wish merely to be pointed toward the poem. But sometimes the reviewer can, in his responses, show his own poetic instinct. In his review of Robert Pinsky‘s Selected Poems (New York Review of Books,Continue reading “Chiasson on Pinsky: Meeting Poetry with More Poetry”

Epistolary Warfare in the Letters Section

Readers of the New York Review of Books are used to the sometimes intemperate, bordering-on-pedantic, yet-always-carefully-crafted display of bruised egos that takes up so much space toward the end of each issue. I am referring, of course, to the Letters section. Here the author, formerly delighted to find out his masterpiece was to be reviewedContinue reading “Epistolary Warfare in the Letters Section”

Lorin Stein on Ben Lerner’s Adam: An Aspiring Poet’s Worries

In reviewing Ben Lerner’s novel Leaving the Atocha Station (“The White Machine of Life”, New York Review of Books, December 8 2011, Vol 58, Number 19), Lorin Stein notes that Adam, the novel’s central character, is “a poet who doesn’t have much feeling for poetry, for art in general.” And this poet is confronted aContinue reading “Lorin Stein on Ben Lerner’s Adam: An Aspiring Poet’s Worries”