172. (Eugenio Montale)

  The Poetry Foundation’s website has a brief essay on Montale, helpful mostly for its generous quotations from critics and from the poet. The consensus among critics, unsurprisingly, is that Montale’s poetry is “difficult.” Here is Ghan Singh: Of all the important twentieth-century Italian poets Montale is the one in whose case it is most difficult to proceed by explicating, through definite formulations and statements, … Continue reading 172. (Eugenio Montale)

115. (Italo Svevo)

Italo Svevo, whose talent was recognized and whose career was partially rescued by Joyce, is not much read nowadays. Joyce’s favorite Svevo novel was not Zeno’s Conscience, which is most well-known, but instead the earlier (1898) As a Man Grows Older (available through New York Review of Books). The novel is easy to classify as charming, sad, a curious blend of the pathetic and ridiculous, comedic in its … Continue reading 115. (Italo Svevo)

100. (T.S. Eliot)

All poetry orients itself, to knowledge, to others, to the world or something beyond it; Eliot’s poetry stoically queries and quietly agonizes over the possibility of orientation. To speak of orientation and Eliot in the same breath inevitably summons speculations about orientation of the sexes; and however hollow such speculations might be, they are a valid extension of the experience of reading Eliot, which leaves … Continue reading 100. (T.S. Eliot)

57. (Willa Cather)

Willa Cather invented a new sort of novel, as innovative as anything by her modernist peers, and distinguished from theirs in several ways—including, I think, how much her novel lets her successfully do. She has more than two great novels, but two of the indisputably great ones, Death Comes for the Archbishop and its precursor in publication and preoccupation The Professor’s House, stand apart and together for … Continue reading 57. (Willa Cather)

5. (D.H. Lawrence)

V.S. Pritchett, introducing his edition of the Oxford Book of Short Stories, admits that he admires D.H. Lawrence most as a master of that form–short narrative–rather than as a novelist or poet ( a claim he makes elsewhere, in his 1980 review of a Lawrence biography for the NYRB). For fine criticism of the stories, we can turn to R.P. Blackmur–an ironic place to look, since … Continue reading 5. (D.H. Lawrence)