January 19 2020
This collection of essays exemplifies the range, depth, and erudition that have made Daniel Mendelsohn “required reading for anyone interested in dissecting culture” (The Daily Beast). Here Mendelsohn once again casts an eye at literature, film, television, and the personal essay, filtering his insights through his training as a scholar of classical antiquity in surprising and illuminating ways. Many of these essays examine how we continue to look to the Greeks and Romans as models: some argue for the surprising modernity of canonical works (Bacchae, the Aeneid), while others detect a “Greek DNA” in our responses to the Boston Marathon bombings and the assassination of JFK. Modern topics are treated, too, from the “aesthetics of victimhood” in Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life to the novels of Karl Ove Knausgaard, and from Game of Thrones to recent films about artificial intelligence—a subject, Mendelsohn reminds us, that was already of interest to Homer. The collection also brings together for the first time a number of Mendelsohn’s personal essays, including his “critic’s manifesto” and a touching memoir of his boyhood correspondence with the historical novelist Mary Renault.
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