Threepenny Review and author of Pictures at an Execution: An Inquiry into the Subject of Murder

NOTHING REMAINS THE SAME: Rereading and Remembering

Wendy Lesser, Author . Houghton Mifflin $24 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4177-1727-9

Lesser is the founding editor of the Threepenny Review and author of Pictures at an Execution: An Inquiry into the Subject of Murder and His Other Half: Men Looking at Women Through Art (among other titles). She defines herself here as a "self-employed, self-designated arbiter of cultural taste," but few of these 15 short essays match the intensity of her best work. Lack of enthusiasm repeatedly becomes the point here: one essay begins: "I was never very fond of either Pope or Wordsworth," while another notes "it was only when I found that both Anna Karenina and Middlemarch had failed to work their magic on me, this time around, that my diminished reaction took on a potential interest." James Joyce's Ulysses fails to compel. The tone throughout is unrelievedly personal ("Antony and Cleopatra was my favorite for a long time, and I still think it is one of Shakespeare's greatest plays"), which works well when the subject is close to home, as with Hitchcock's Vertigo, set in her home city: "My own ghost, in relation to this movie—my own Carlotta, if you will—is San Francisco.... Like Scotty, I am mourning a beloved who never really existed." Essays on John Milton, Henry Adams and George Orwell aim middle-to-low on the brow, sometimes with a dash of odd coyness: in a chapter on modern British novelist Ian McEwan, Lesser mentions a decade-old review she wrote of one of his books, stating, "I will spare you the entire review"—and then goes on to quote a page and a half of it. Potential readers would do well to stick to the prolific Lesser's fresher and more enthusiastic The Amateur: An Independent Life of Letters. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/01/2002
Release date: 00/00/0000
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.