cover image Errata: An Examined Life

Errata: An Examined Life

George Steiner. Yale University Press, $45 (206pp) ISBN 978-0-300-07503-8

""It happens to be blindingly obvious to me that study, theological-philosophic argument, classical music, poetry, art, all that is `difficult because it is excellent'... are the excuse for life."" It is this postulate that reigns supreme throughout the eminent literary critic's latest book. The subtitle to the work implies an autobiography of some sort, but those who come to this slender volume with that notion will be disappointed. Steiner knows that real life is the life of the mind, and so he dazzles his readers with the raison d'etre of his passionate existence. Each chapter exists as a separate essay, and each essay is witty and rewarding. Steiner argues for the benefits of classical education, the underestimated importance of grammar, the supremacy of classical music. What little autobiographical information there is--snapshots of an upper-class childhood in Vienna, Paris and New York, praise for overzealous instructors, cold nods to jealous academics at Oxford and Chicago--only prefaces meditations on that which Steiner holds to be true and most dear, as when a description of his own trilingual life leads us to a discussion of the Babel myth, the power of language and the important role of the future tense in the drama of humanity. One would think that this might distance the reader from the author as subject; on the contrary, it allows us an intimate and captivating glimpse into Steiner's mind and thought. (Mar.)