Modern Library Revue Archives - The Millions

November 15, 2016

Modern Library Revue #5: Brave New World 11


Disdain is empathy’s evil and more efficient twin, both born of close observation. Novels that consider individual reactions to events must be empathetic. But any novelist who wishes to depict society must harness disdain in order to make the depiction stick for the long term.

October 6, 2014

Modern Library Revue: #43 Dance to the Music of Time 3


Instead of Mary or Jesus or anybody, I suddenly thought only of Anthony Powell, whose beautiful Dance to the Music of Time I was then rereading, and felt an overwhelmingly sense that this is really all we get–that if everything else is taken away, the beauty of someone’s vision of the world is our meager but abiding solace for being in the world.

May 27, 2014

Modern Library Revue: #38 Howards End 4


Just before Forster’s novel I read Austerlitz, a book whose construction around a portentous negative space has the effect of drawing neighboring books into its central darkness, like a dying star. Everything becomes tinged with this darkness.

March 31, 2014

Modern Library Revue: #19 Invisible Man 3


In America it is the privilege of the white man to rollick, even if he is a poor Jew born into moderate squalor. The black man, in this novel at any rate, can only be fucked around; his hope, in this novel, is to discover his own way of doing things.

November 5, 2013

Modern Library Revue: #26 The Wings of the Dove 16


Let’s say that my previous efforts with this book were equivalent to the disappointing herbal cigarette from a store called Groovy Vibes, or a bag of mulch obtained at the concert from someone’s questionable cousin. But this time I got, so to speak, the good shit. You eat the Henry James mushrooms, you look upon his dense thicket of sentences, his plodding parade of commas, and suddenly the text, and the entire world, come into insane focus.

May 30, 2013

Modern Library Revue: #30 The Good Soldier 1


One hundred years later, Modernism seems like a biggish tent. But really, it’s about as descriptive a term as “sandwich;” reading the learned essays invoked, in my crude mind, a long-running argument that my friends have about what is or is not a sandwich. Is a taco a sandwich? A hotdog? It is all a darkness.

February 21, 2013

Modern Library Revue: #28 Tender is the Night 10


I used to feel that the novel output of Fitzgerald was like the literary version of the Myers Briggs test: whichever one a person favored was some fundamental indicator of his or her personality.

October 12, 2012

Modern Library Revue: #90 Midnight’s Children 2


When you go somewhere new, without the funds to elevate you to the echelon of luxury that is its own country, inevitably there comes a moment when you look around and realize that you have no idea what the fuck is going on. In these moments my Indian book club of one succored me, gave context to the long days of new sights and sounds.

April 20, 2012

Modern Library Revue: #36 All the King’s Men 10


This novel is written so beautifully, so stylishly, and feels so American — with all the muddled greatness and shittiness that descriptor implies — that my decrepit patriotism pricked up its ears like it sometimes does when I read a stunning novel about America, in fine American English.

January 23, 2012

Modern Library Revue: #33 Sister Carrie 8


In a state of temporal foreignness, it is not always easy to read the signs of the previous century.