| Oct 19, 2008
When John Adams, the celebrated composer who is to his adopted California as Sibelius is to Finland, decided to write a memoir of his life and music, he realized there was virtually no model for his project.
"Most composers," he said over lunch at an...
| Dec 20, 2009
It was already clear, in December of 1999, that books were a dying species. Already more people seemed interested in producing novels than consuming them, and when it came to serious works, there seemed more fascination with the writer than the writing....
| Sep 2, 2007
They wait like pilgrims, queuing silently, bearing volumes for inscription and awaiting a chance to touch the hem of his garment.
They're not Franciscans approaching Assisi but earnest readers rushing bookstores and cultural temples for word -- wisdom,...
| Sep 20, 2009
When I was in my early 20s, living in Berkeley and drifting toward a PhD in Russian literature, I started writing poetry. It was a completely unexpected development. I definitely hadn't been one of those kids in high school who worked for the literary...
| Sep 27, 2009
The Wilderness Warrior
Theodore Roosevelt and the
Crusade for America
Harper: 960 pp., $34.99
Reviewing several Roosevelt biographies in 1920, H.L. Mencken reported that he had found more "gush" than "sense." Douglas Brinkley's...
| Oct 4, 2009
Daunting as it may be to assemble a centuries-spanning assessment of any country, even one with a fairly linear march through history, how does one approach a culture as unstable, contradictory and contested as ours? Where do you start? Where do you stop?...
| Apr 6, 2009
I'm impatient by nature. But I thought I had learned how to remain still in yoga classes, coaxing calm and patience from an overactive mind. I thought I learned patience when my daughter was born 2 1/2 weeks late. But I didn't really learn anything...
| Sep 12, 2010
Selected Poems and Commentaries
Harvard University Press: 530 pp., $35
I'm just a regular reader, you say. I read for pleasure. Why should I read the commentaries of critic Helen Vendler on the "epigrammatic, terse, abrupt,...
| Oct 3, 2010
Poems and Prose Poems
Beacon Press: 96 pp., $23
"What can I say that I have not said before?" the poet Mary Oliver wonders on page 1 of this, her 20th collection. "So I'll say it again./The leaf has a song in it." She is a little...
| Oct 14, 2010
| 9:19 AM
"Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds"
By Lyndall Gordon Viking, 472 pages, $28
Even though fewer than a dozen of Emily Dickinson’s 1,789 poems were published in her lifetime, her family and friends in Amherst,...
| Jun 27, 2010
It was long after dark when Henry Sweets brought me to Hannibal's Old Baptist Cemetery, "a graveyard of the old-fashioned Western kind."
No moon. Ragged weeds, crumbling gravestones. We tried to tread lightly, but it had been raining, and mud grabbed...