John Gross (1935–2011) was an English editor and critic. From 1974 to 1981, he was editor of The Times Literary Supplement; he also served as senior book editor and critic at The New York Times. His memoir, A Double Thread, was published in 2001.

IN THE REVIEW

The Ultimate Reader

Alberto Manguel, Hamburg, 2007; photograph by Isolde Ohlbaum

The Library at Night

by Alberto Manguel

A Reader on Reading

by Alberto Manguel
The Library at Night is a disquisition on libraries in general—on their history, their nature, their significance, and some of their idiosyncrasies. It is a bold undertaking, but then large subjects hold no terrors for Manguel. Probably his best-known book, published fourteen years ago, is nothing less (as its title …

A Constant Reader

Adolf Hitler, circa 1935

Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life

by Timothy W. Ryback
In 1942 an American journalist called Frederick Oechsner published a book about Hitler entitled This Is the Enemy . It included an account of Hitler’s personal library, based on interviews Oechsner had conducted with the Führer’s associates while working as the United Press International correspondent in Berlin. And the first …

‘Something Marvellous to Tell’

Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism

by John Updike
Every eight or nine years over the past four decades John Updike has published a collection of reviews, essays, sketches, memoirs, and miscellaneous prose. These volumes are substantial affairs—some of them run to eight or nine hundred pages—and for most writers the work that has gone into them would represent …

Empson: Argufying Against Mufflement

William Empson, Volume II: Against the Christians

by John Haffenden

Selected Letters of William Empson

edited by John Haffenden
From the start of his career William Empson enjoyed a double reputation, as a poet and as a critic. It now seems clear that he has an additional claim to be remembered, as a letter-writer. The first volume of John Haffenden’s biography of him, which appeared two years ago, broke …

A Scandal at the Villa Paradiso

All for Love

by Dan Jacobson
All the world loves a scandal. The affair of Princess Louise of Belgium and Géza Mattachich is forgotten today, but a hundred years ago newspapers and magazines were full of it. With good reason, since it had a great deal to offer their readers: adultery in high places, a royal …

The Genius of Ambiguity

William Empson, Volume 1: Among the Mandarins

by John Haffenden
William Empson was a prodigy. He arrived at Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1925, with a scholarship in mathematics: his college supervisor regarded him as one of the best mathematicians he had ever had. In 1928, however, he switched to English, under the supervision of I.A. Richards, and within a year …

The Reader Strikes Back

Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books

by H.J. Jackson
It was Coleridge who launched the Latin word “marginalia” on its English career. In his mid-thirties, around 1807, he began to be known for his habit of annotating books in elaborate detail. (He had been more abstemious when he was young.) Friends cherished his scribbled comments, and encouraged him to …

‘A Nice Pleasant Youth’

Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil

by Ron Rosenbaum
In 1952, reviewing the first edition of Alan Bullock’s biography of Hitler, the historian Lewis Namier began on a note of revulsion: “Must we talk of Hitler?” But he knew that we have no real choice in the matter: “We must, however distasteful the subject.” And nearly fifty years later, …