Book Review: Jensen-Stevenson, Spite House

OK, footnotes might seem boring, and they might frighten some potential book buyers, but any book concerning the controversy over Robert Garwood needs rigorous footnotes identifying the source or sources of various assertions. In Spite House (1997), the few footnotes are really odd; some minor matters are footnoted, major matters are not. The footnotes appear … Read more

Book Review: Alan Farrell, Expended Casings

In his foreword (whimsically rendered “Deployed Forward”), Alan Farrell ridicules pretension, incomprehensibility, poetry as therapy, literary critical jargon, posturing, the cult of free verse, swingebuckling, and shallow war poetry cliches. Nevertheless you sense that he is trying to be restrained and polite, and barely succeeding. Farrell’s reader might then expect carefully crafted and elegantly ironic … Read more

Book Review: William Logan, The Undiscovered Country

Poetry is the only art form in America that I can think of that no longer has a bracing tradition of real criticism. Novels, plays, films, operas . . . we expect critics to note honestly whatever flaws and failures they see in specific works. Critical reviews often hurt sales and egos, but without them … Read more

Book Review: Stephen Burt, Close Calls with Nonsense

A few years ago nearly everyone thought that poetry was finally dead, that the few remaining poets were living solitary lives as poetry presses shut down and poetry readers diminished. Then along comes  technology to the rescue: new printing technologies, vast social networking sites, poetry blogs, online publishers, and inexpensive personal web sites. Now new … Read more

Theatre: David Ives on Self-Knowledge

The playwright David Ives appeared Feb. 24, 2010 at a Barnes & Noble in New York City, on a panel (promoting the new book The Play That Changed My Life) and made an interesting observation. Ives said that he had thought a lot about what David Mamet wrote in an article in The New York … Read more

Film Review: The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon reminds us of the enormous power of black and white films. This film is visually wonderful, with its painterly compositions, interesting faces, and occasional frames in which the subject is partially obscured. B&W adds a subtle layer of artifice and historic distance to our experience as viewers. The story and characters are … Read more

Wars and Tea Party Anti-Tax Demonstrations

The peace movement has proven completely ineffectual in the eight years of war in Afghanistan and seven years of war in Iraq. Public demonstrations and vigils attract no interest and change no minds. How annoying then that Tea Party demonstrations draw vast crowds and are now considered a serious influence over the decisions of elected … Read more

Film Review: The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is a very well made action film, but I am surprised at how well received it has been. What it does, it does well, but how hard is it to generate tension and excitement when your characters are armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and are intent on killing each other at … Read more

Film Review: I Served the King of England

This film has a lot going for it. I like its complexity, I like its use of visuals, and I like its ambition. It has the feeling of a complex novel without trying to be a novel (it’s adapted from a novel). I like its admixture of political satire and gentle humor, and its Charlie … Read more

Why bipartisan is a dirty word

This week the president appealed for bipartisan cooperation. Politicians frequently call for or pledge bipartisan cooperation as if it’s a good thing, but it’s usually a good thing only for the two political parties. The average American citizen should be frightened at the very idea of bipartisan cooperation, and not because one party is always … Read more