247. (Stendhal)

  Stendhal is exhausting and bracing because his energy is relentless and directed relentlessly to one end: the refusal of “style.” It is sometimes said that was painfully aware that he was incapable of style; I think it likely he realized it to be an achievement. To say Stendhal has no style might seem to echo Arnold’s remark about Wordsworth. It is vastly different in … Continue reading 247. (Stendhal)

244. (Stendhal)

Stendhal’s narration is a perpetual mystery of European literature; it goes hand in hand with his characterization (as narration usually does). How might the mystery be approached?  Here, as a touchstone, is an example, from the end of Chapter 15, “The Cockrow,” immediately after Julien has first seduced Madame de Renal:             Some hours later, when Julien emerged from Madame de Renal’s room, one might … Continue reading 244. (Stendhal)

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)

79. (James Joyce)

Once, in a graduate seminar on Chaucer, flailing and frustrated with the chatter, I blurted out to the professor, most becomingly for a graduate student, a demand more than a question: “But what is the point of it all?” At which point he patiently expounded on how this, and most, of The Canterbury Tales might be understood as fundamentally verifying and testing the conditions and … Continue reading 79. (James Joyce)