West indian literature

Sunday Reading: Reviews of Classical Literature

In 1981, British critic VS Pritchett published a review of Salman Rushdie’s second novel, “The Midnight Childrena political satire about a boy born in India as the country moves from colonial rule to independence. Rushdie eludes the feints typical of historical fiction and creates a stark allegorical vision of a consequential national moment. The novel won that year’s Booker Prize, acclaimed for its evocative blend of historical fact and magical realism. ‘Like García Márquez in ‘A hundred years of lonelinesswrites Pritchett, Rushdie “weaves the ability of an entire people to carry their inherited myths – and the new ones they continue to generate – into a kind of magic carpet. The human swarm swarms within every man and woman as they make their bid for life. Ultimately, notes the reviewer, it’s a tale about the connection between storytelling and history, and the ramifications of the stories left to us by our families, our communities and our culture.

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This week, we bring you a selection of contemporary ratings of writers and reviews of classic novels. In “Remembering WH Auden,” Hannah Arendt examines the complex personality behind poetry. In 1987’s “A House Divided,” Judith Thurman explores the intricacies of race and family love in “Toni Morrison.”Beloved.” (The novelist “treats the past as if it were one of those old bright scenes painted on black glass – the scene of a disaster, like the burning of Parliament or the eruption of Krakatoa – and she breaks the glass, and recomposes it in a disjointed and confusing modern form. As the reader wrestles with its fragments and mysteries, he continues to be surprised by flashes of his own reflection in them.”) In “Don’t Shoot not on the book review; He does the best he can”, from 1939 Clifton Fadiman considers the innovative literary style of James Joyce’s last novel, “Finnegans Wake.” In “Expeditions to Gilead and Seegard”, John Updike writes about the dark dystopia of Margaret Atwood “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Finally, in a 1951 review, SN Behrman contemplates the symbolism behind JD Salinger’s first novel, “The Heart Catcher.” Of the protagonist, he writes, “It is her self-communions that are tragic and touching – a dark whirlwind seething fiercely beneath the tireless hilarity of her surface pursuits. Holden’s difficulties affect his nervous system but never his vision. It is the vision of an innocent.

Erin Overbey, Archive Editor


The fantastic tour de force of Salman Rushdie

In “The Children of Midnight”, the author weaves the ability of an entire people to carry their inherited myths – and the new ones they keep generating – into a kind of magic carpet.

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Auden walking down a snowy street.

There was nothing more admirable about Auden than her firm belief in sanity.

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A two-story white house with a porch

How the drama of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” engages us in history.

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JD Salinger
The vision of the innocent

“The Heart Catcher” by JD Salinger.

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A photograph by James Joyce
Don’t shoot the book reviewer; He does the best he can

A god, speaking in his sleep, could have written “Finnegans Wake”.

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A pregnant woman with shaded hands wrapped around her belly.
Expeditions to Gilead and Seegard

Margaret Atwood and Iris Murdoch give free rein to their imagination.

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