210. (Thomas Hobbes)

It’s often said that Leviathan has the excellence of great literature, that it is one of the finest prose works in the language, and the opinion is not just that of philosophers. To the many good reasons for appreciating what Hobbes effects in and to language, one might speculate that Leviathan is distinctly literary in its excellence, and that it’s being so, while being at … Continue reading 210. (Thomas Hobbes)

209. (Marcel Proust)

From the “Proust and Other Matters” blog, a debate from an old Yahoo Proust listserv, over the name of “Cambremer,” which features as a joke first in Swann’s Way, but then centrally in Sodom and Gomorrah, when the lift boy fails to correct his pronunciation, “Camembert”: Dear Sharon, Today, I just wanted to correct your interpretation of the jokes about the name Cambremer. The joke about the name … Continue reading 209. (Marcel Proust)

207. (Amy Clampitt)

Amy Clampitt’s “Nothing Stays Put” opens with an allusion to Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much With Us,” and the turn her allusion takes is indicative of what she makes of the excess of the world: “The strange and wonderful are too much with us.” That line itself can be heard numerous ways: the description itself, “how strange and wonderful” is too often spoken and … Continue reading 207. (Amy Clampitt)

206. (Vladimir Nabokov)

Coming to grips with Dostoevsky at all means coming to grips with the other half of the burden of art, philosophy, the study of history. I’ve always found his novels extraordinarily painful to read, and been inclined to think Nabokov’s assessment must be in part right, even while recognizing that Nabokov was being insolent and disingenuous in not going further than he does in examining … Continue reading 206. (Vladimir Nabokov)

205. (William Empson)

That great literature balances great forces judiciously, that it calms a turbulence of mind, and that it communicates truths that otherwise could not be communicated is never left in doubt by Empson’s criticism, but he is distinguished by never panting after the proof, by not worrying over ranking or finding the right terms of praise. The puzzle for him is in working out what his … Continue reading 205. (William Empson)

204. (John Donne)

An exemplary poem by Donne, “The Expiration”: So, so breake off this last lamenting kisse,      Which sucks two soules, and vapours Both away,  Turne thou ghost that way, and let mee turne this,      And let our selves benight our happiest day,  We ask’d none leave to love; nor will we owe      Any, so cheape a death, as saying, Goe;  Goe; and if … Continue reading 204. (John Donne)