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Waiting for the Barbarians

Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture

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Over the past decade and a half, Daniel Mendelsohn’s reviews for The New York Review of BooksThe 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’sNew Yorker essay on fake memoirs, he considers the lives and work of writers as disparate as Leo Lerman, Noël 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.”

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 02, 2012 – Wide-ranging and absorbing, this new collection of essays from Mendelsohn (The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million), is a joy from start to finish. Mendelsohn is a critic who consistently takes his subjects seriously, be they TV shows (Mad Men), 3-D blockbusters (Avatar), or the poems of Rimbaud. Though the author rarely lets us forget that he is a scholar of ancient Greek culture, connections drawn between Ovid and the Broadway musical Spider-man, or Sophocles and the story of the Titanic are frequently illuminating, even if occasionally self-aggrandizing. There are enjoyable embers of controversy scattered through the essays, too, such as Mendelsohn’s self-conscious critique of the recent vogue for memoir, a slightly cranky putdown of Mad Men, or a chiding review of Alan Hollinghurst that provoked a brief flurry of letters upon publication in the New York Review of Books. Along with perceptive essays on Anne Carson, Jonathan Franzen, Susan Sontag, and more, the collection adds up to a wonderfully eclectic set of musings on the state of contemporary culture and the enduring riches of classical literature.
Waiting for the Barbarians
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary Criticism
  • Published: Oct 16, 2012
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 432 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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