Oscar Wilde: a “fatuous fool,” a “tenth-rate cad,” and an “unclean beast?” According to Henry James, all of the above.
Recommended Reading: This review, though it is really much more than that, of Daniel Williams’ Defenders of the Unborn. Williams’ book takes a detailed look at the history of anti-abortion activism before Roe v. Wade, but more generally it seeks to complicate our entire definition of activism in the context of the pro-life/pro-choice debate.
“The notion that American literature might have an imperial bent—that it might be anything other than a string of lightly co-influential works of ‘imaginative power,’ and might itself reflect our national desire to dominate—is lost on its critics, both right and left.” Jonathan Sturgeon in The Baffler on American exceptionalism and “the imperial self” in fiction, with particular attention paid to the work of two other Jonathans, Franzen and Safran Foer.
In the latest issue of The Boston Review, Elaine Scarry reviews Steven Pinker’s
The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker argues that literature, by bolstering man’s empathy, has lead to huge reductions in worldwide violence, a thesis that sounds dangerously close to the absurd pop-science of Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal.