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FAR COUNTRY

SCENES FROM AMERICAN CULTURE

Fortunately, no grades are given out in these classes, just a “genuine intellectual experience” to learn from a first-rate...

A literature professor invites us to sit in on some classes.

The co-founder of Stanford’s Literary Lab and Center for the Study of the Novel, Moretti (Emeritus, Humanities/Stanford Univ.; Distant Reading, 2013, etc.) collects an “odd quintet” of his university lectures on fiction, film, drama, and art and adds another, “Teaching in America,” in which he bemoans the university acting like a store seeking “financial dreams,” thus betraying “its intellectual purpose.” The author clearly wants us to enjoy the “magic” of literature and then “filter it through the skepticism of critique” to acquire an “aesthetic education.” He extracts short passages from the works discussed to analyze how language and style create form. In one of the best lectures, Moretti looks at how Hemingway’s style in “Big Two-Hearted River”—short sentences, a “spectacular” use of prepositional phrases, repetition—acts as a response to the never-mentioned World War I to create a “sort of retrospective exorcism of an unspeakable trauma.” In “Walt Whitman or Charles Baudelaire?” Moretti picks the American when it comes down to the battle “between two incompatible conceptions of modern poetry.” Indeed, Whitman provides “the fundamental model for a democratic aesthetics.” In the engaging and insightful “Day and Night,” Moretti examines the historical and antithetical significance between Westerns and film noir. “Words don’t matter in the Western,” he writes, whereas film noir is “unimaginable without words.” After World War II, these two genres, writes the author, were critical to establishing American cultural hegemony. Next up, “Causality in Death of a Salesman”: “American myths, everywhere: and they all turn to ashes.” Lastly, and most ambitiously, there’s a somewhat hopscotching piece on Vermeer and Hopper/Rembrandt and Warhol. Throughout, Moretti draws on a wide range of authors to assist him in his skeptical critiques.

Fortunately, no grades are given out in these classes, just a “genuine intellectual experience” to learn from a first-rate literary critic.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-27270-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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