"I happen to be one of those people who thinks that, thanks to the pernicious silliness of Dr. Freud, a burden of significance has been placed upon human sexuality -- in its strictly physical manifestation -- that is far greater than it can comfortably bear. I've had my share of sexual adventure -- for which I am quite grateful -- but I really can't say that sex has been much of a determining factor in my life or on my character. Moreover, for all the importance conferred upon it in modern literature, after four decades of book reviewing, I am here to report that it usually doesn't come off very well on the printed page...
It isn't sex, in the sense of physical coupling, that makes for great literature; it's passion."
My latest American Enterprise Online books column is now online. I take a look at E.H. Gombrich's charming book for the young at heart of all ages, A Little History of the World, and the realities of the book business.
My review of Mark Helprin's latest novel, Freddy and Fredericka, is in this week's Washington Times books section:
The protagonists may be more British than Earl Grey. But in "Freddy and Fredericka," Mr. Helprin finally comes into his own as one of the great chroniclers of American life, as sharp as Tom Wolfe and almost as clever as Mark Twain...
"It is a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money."
"Any writer's death diminishes us, for we lose a vision of the world that only he or she could share with us."
"[T]here are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents."
"Certainly," said Alice.
"And only ONE for birthday presents, you know."
"I just felt he was offering a completely spurious and unbelievable version of life. His protagonist was still in love with his wife after all those years, can never have been unfaithful to her; both his children loved each other. It's just not life as we know it."
—John Banville on Ian McEwan's Saturday
"Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great."