Notes on Contemporary Literature

Articles from Vol. 42, No. 1, January

A Refutation of Robert Byrne: John Kennedy Toole's a Confederacy of Dunces, Chaucer, and Boethius
Efforts to study John Kennedy Toole's intellectual development and how it may have influenced his A Confederacy of Dunces (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1980) have been surprisingly weak, considering the critical attention paid to the text. After...
Lost and Found in Karen Russell's Swamplandial
Dispatching characters on treks into the id-jungle, journeys through the backwoods of riot, rape, and unrepression, authors from Joseph Conrad to James Dickey have mapped the shadow zones and terra incognita of the psyche. Telling stories of a descent...
Nabokov and Robert Lowell
Robert Lowell's translation of Innokentii Annensky and Boris Pasternak in Imitations (1961) had escaped whipping by Vladimir Nabokov, but he makes five significant references to Lowell in Ada (1969). Vlad the Impaler--superbly trilingual in Russian,...
"The Essential Doesn't Change": Essence Precedes Experience and Cartesian Rationalism in Samuel Beckett' Waiting for Godot
Brigette Le Juez's Beckett Before Beckett (London: Souvenir, 2008) examines Beckett's formative years at Trinity College, Dublin. Though not previously unknown, Le Juez delves deeper into Beckett's early obsession with Descartes. This is significant...
Thousands and Tens of Thousands
"... not only Northern dead leavening Southern soil--thousands, aye tens of thousands, of Southerners crumble to-day in Northern earth", wrote Walt Whitman of the American Civil War (p. 482 in "Specimen Days", 1973, The portable Walt Whitman, pp. 383-640)....
'Tis Pity She's a Whore: Conrad's Victory and Maugham's "Rain"
My biography of Somerset Maugham (2004) discussed the influence of Joseph Conrad's Victory (1915) on Maugham's underrated homosexual novel The Narrow Corner (1934). A fresh look at Maugham's greatest story, "Rain" (1921), reveals Victory's equally...