Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture

Daniel Mendelsohn, Author
Daniel Mendelsohn. New York Review Books, $24.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-59017-607-8
Reviewed on: 07/02/2012
Release date: 10/16/2012
Paperback - 423 pages - 978-1-59017-713-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-56627-9
Open Ebook - 235 pages - 978-1-59017-609-2
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Wide-ranging and absorbing, this new collection of essays from Mendelsohn (The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million), is a joy from start to finish. Mendelsohn is a critic who consistently takes his subjects seriously, be they TV shows (Mad Men), 3-D blockbusters (Avatar), or the poems of Rimbaud. Though the author rarely lets us forget that he is a scholar of ancient Greek culture, connections drawn between Ovid and the Broadway musical Spider-man, or Sophocles and the story of the Titanic are frequently illuminating, even if occasionally self-aggrandizing. There are enjoyable embers of controversy scattered through the essays, too, such as Mendelsohn’s self-conscious critique of the recent vogue for memoir, a slightly cranky putdown of Mad Men, or a chiding review of Alan Hollinghurst that provoked a brief flurry of letters upon publication in the New York Review of Books. Along with perceptive essays on Anne Carson, Jonathan Franzen, Susan Sontag, and more, the collection adds up to a wonderfully eclectic set of musings on the state of contemporary culture and the enduring riches of classical literature. Agent: Lydia Wills. (Oct.)
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