Waiting for the Barbarians

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 10/16/2012
  • Publisher: New York Review Books

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In Waiting for the Barbarians, Daniel Mendelsohn-hailed by The Economistas one of the finest critics writing in the English language today-brings together thirty-four of his recent critical essays. In this collection, Mendelsohn moves from penetrating considerations of the ways in which the classics continue to make themselves felt in contemporary life and letters (Anne Carson's Sappho, Euripides in Central Park and on Broadway, the use of Plato's dialogues in a gay rights trial in Colorado) to trenchant takes on pop "spectacles" such as Avatar, Spider-Man, and Mad Men, a series whose success, Mendelsohn argued, has less to do with any formal excellence than with a profoundly sentimental appeal. Also gathered here are essays devoted to the art of fiction, from blockbusters such as Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Onesto forgotten gems like the novels of Theodor Fontane. In another section, "Private Lives," prefaced by his lengthy New Yorkeressay on phony memoirs, Mendelsohn considers the lives and work of authors as disparate as Noel Coward and Susan Sontag, and ends with a reminiscence of his own: about the Auntie Mamelike Frenchwoman with whom he lived as an undergraduate, when he first began reading the classics.

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