Time Trips

At a dinner given in honor of his eighty-fifth birthday, I heard Leonard Woolf say that there were two compensations for old age, First, after seventy you become subjectively better: minor ailments vanish and you feel more tonic. Secondly, after eighty you become objectively better: people who once disliked or …

O Calcutta!

Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain but upon taking cold. I lived in Axe-yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more in family than us three. My wife, after the absence …

Lichtenberg: Body Language & A Dream

“Chief employment of my life, to observe people’s faces,” Lichtenberg wrote in his diary in 1771. In fact, his chief occupation was teaching physics at Göttingen; he was also an astronomer of distinction (one of the craters of the moon is named after him), a mathematician, a philosopher, a brilliant …

Good Camper

“I suppose I’m getting squeamish! But this Ronald Firbank I can’t take to at all. Valmouth! Was there ever a novel more coarse? I assure you I hadn’t gone very far when I had to put it down.” “It’s out,” Mrs. Bedley suavely said, “as well,” she added, “as the …

Happy Families

“Ardis Hall—the Ardors and Arbors of Ardis—this is the leitmotiv rippling through Ada, an ample and delightful chronicle, whose principal part is staged in a dream-bright America—for are not our childhood memories comparable to Vineland-born caravelles, indolently encircled by the white birds of dreams? The protagonist, a scion of one …

K.

Kafka’s drawings, said to be newly discovered and now published for the first time, are witty, disturbing, and rather like Rorschach ink-blots. This is not surprising, since the writings themselves are like ink-blots, and the manifold interpretations (a sample of which can be found in the collection of essays edited …

Can You Top This?

The relationships between an author’s life and his work, between biography and literary criticism, are always puzzling. Does it matter what kind of a man he was? And if so, just how much and in what ways does it matter? This is particularly difficult in the case of Flaubert, because …

The Witches’ Secrets

The colors are without significance: no blue stories, no red propaganda here, nothing but folktales and quasi-folktales adapted for the children’s book market, and first published by Longman between 1889 (Blue) and 1904 (Brown). There are three more; Orange, Olive, and Lilac (1910), which I presume Dover will also publish …

Saint Beckett

“There were not many steps. I had counted them a thousand times, both going up and coming down, but the figure has gone from my mind. I had never known whether you should say one with your foot on the sidewalk, two with the following foot on the first step, …

Old Pup

MY LORD,—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter with the 100£ inclosed. What can I say? Till a Friend and House-mate addressed me at my bedside, with—’You have had a letter franked by Lord Byron? Is it from him?’ I had, as it were, forgotten that I was …

Kicking the Hobbit

Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the storymaker’s art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called “willing suspension of disbelief.” But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the storymaker proves …

A New Catholic Bible

After centuries of wandering in the wilderness Roman Catholic Bible scholarship has entered the promised land; and it is remarkable with what speed the final conquest has taken place. The Vulgate, still used by Ronald Knox in 1949, has been abandoned as the sole basis for vernacular translations; the American …