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)

162. (William Gaddis)

No other writer has made me think about the short story and short fiction as William Gaddis has; that is maybe because his novels JR and The Recognitions are as far from the form of the short story as a novel can be, and for this sort of novel to succeed, it needs to remind itself, and remind us, of why it is not something else, namely a … Continue reading 162. (William Gaddis)

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)

97. (Oscar Wilde)

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon quips: “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” The actors must have paused for laughter, because the next line turns the joke upon the audience. Jack asks: “Is that clever?” And Algernon saves the audience from the embarrassment of satire: “It is perfectly phrased! And quite as true as any observation should … Continue reading 97. (Oscar Wilde)

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)