Robert M. Adams (1915-1996) was a founding editor of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. He taught at the University of Wisconsin, Rutgers, Cornell and U.C.L.A. His scholarly interested ranged from Milton to Joyce, and his translations of many classic works of French literature continue to be read to this day.


A Self-Made Man

Writing Was Everything

by Alfred Kazin
Alfred Kazin’s modest memoir, Writing Was Everything, marks its author’s entry into his ninth decade. This, if ever, is a proper time to summarize and retrospect. (I remember the surprise with which I learned that my classmate and coeval at Columbia College, Thomas Merton, had written and published to acclaim …

Wonderful Town?

Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s

by Ann Douglas
Under the gleaming neon sign that reads HONEST JOHN, USED CAR SALESMAN you’re sure of at least one thing. Nobody advertises himself or his product as “honest” who doesn’t have very good reason to know that people will expect the contrary. Ann Douglas of Columbia University titles her new book …

Bloom’s All-Time Greatest Hits

The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages

by Harold Bloom
The project is formidable, and to be approached from below, while one looks up to it: nothing less than an explanation and defense of the Western world’s literary tradition from beginning to end, supposing it has either beginning or end. To encompass the outline is one thing; to fill in …

Lighting Up Shakespeare

Essays, Mainly Shakespearean

by Anne Barton
The author of four substantial scholarly books, numerous editorial interventions, and various critical articles, Anne Barton is a lucid and witty writer whose learning is both extensive and solidly grounded. Though born in America and a graduate of Bryn Mawr, she has lived and worked most of her adult life …

The Great Perhaps

Life Work

by Donald Hall

The Museum of Clear Ideas

by Donald Hall
Donald Hall’s brief memoir, Life Work, is, as he himself declares, a bit of a brag about the amount of work—poems, books, lectures—he has been able to accomplish since giving up an academic job. On this point he can expect widespread corroboration from graybeards scattered around the country. An awful …

Boys Will Be Boys

The Book of Guys

by Garrison Keillor
Though in colloquial usage it’s become something else, a guy began as a dummy, something to kick around, and out of a number of such masculine boobies, Garrison Keillor has made a book. Keillor has done sketches of this nature for rectial on television—he is best known as the laureate …

Death in Montana

Young Men and Fire

by Norman Maclean

A River Runs Through It

by Norman Maclean, engravings by Barry Moser
The crucial event of Norman Maclean’s last book (he died in 1990) was a forest fire in the rugged western mountains of Montana. The fire took place in August of 1949; Maclean, who was then and had been for years a member of the department of English at the University …

Cornering the Market


by Jim Crace

Nothing but Blue Skies

by Thomas McGuane
Jim Crace is a British writer who has just published his third work of fiction without having made much impression in his first two. This seems likely to change soon. Born in London in 1946 but resident in Birmingham, Crace is apparently tied to no literary group of academic or …