Waiting for the Barbarians
Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture
By Daniel Mendelsohn
(New York Review of Books, Hardcover, 9781590176078, 423pp.)
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
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AND THE PEN ART OF THE ESSAY AWARD
Over the past decade and a half, Daniel Mendelsohn's reviews for "The New York Review of Books," "The New Yorker," and "The New York Times Book Review" have earned him a reputation as "one of the greatest critics of our time" ("Poets & Writers"). In "Waiting for the Barbarians," he brings together twenty-four of his recent essays--each one glinting with "verve and sparkle," "acumen and passion"--on a wide range of subjects, from "Avatar" to the poems of Arthur Rimbaud, from our inexhaustible fascination with the "Titanic" to Susan Sontag's "Journals." Trained as a classicist, author of two internationally best-selling memoirs, Mendelsohn moves easily from penetrating considerations of the ways in which the classics continue to make themselves felt in contemporary life and letters (Greek myth in the "Spider-Man" musical, Anne Carson's translations of Sappho) to trenchant takes on pop spectacles--none more explosively controversial than his dissection of "Mad Men."
Also gathered here are essays devoted to the art of fiction, from Jonathan Littell's Holocaust blockbuster "The Kindly Ones" to forgotten gems like the novels of Theodor Fontane. In a final section, "Private Lives," prefaced by Mendelsohn's" New Yorker" essay on fake memoirs, he considers the lives and work of writers as disparate as Leo Lerman, NoEl Coward, and Jonathan Franzen. "Waiting for the Barbarians" once again demonstrates that Mendelsohn's "sweep as a cultural critic is as impressive as his depth.