A list of notable books from the first year of the new decade

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A great book, according to ?

The following reviews have been collected from friends, enemies, and strangers. They were found on websites, in emails, and snail-mail. They come from people of various genders, ages, cultures, and creeds. If they sound alike, it’s because I, as their editor and progenitor, am only one man.

Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes (Edith Grossman translation)

I read Don Quixote in the early phases of the quarantine, when comedy and fear blended into a perfect cocktail of nonstop stimulation. Cervantes skewers the world of chivalry in the manner I wish people skewered our politics, but our…


An Exploration on the Subjectivity of Biography and History

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image via Tin House

Two days after finishing Jenn Shapland’s illuminating My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, I finished (after months of snail-paced and intermittent reading) Robert Caro’s The Path to Power, the first of his yet-to-be-completed five-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. Caro’s biography is long, heavily sourced, expansive, authoritative, and novelistic. In its early description of the Lyndon’s notable ancestors and limestone-plagued soil they chose for their home, it has an ambition and style reminiscent of many of the early passages in Steinbeck’s masterpiece, East of Eden. Caro writes in the third person, practically omniscient. One gets the sense that if something is knowable…


The man’s genius in just two hundred pages and eight quotes.

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Photo by Eduardo Olszewski on Unsplash

Famously colossal and philosophical, Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time has gained an unfair reputation for opaqueness and difficulty. People assume that it is like Joyce’s Ulysses — another work better known for its complexity than for its merit — that people read it because they feel they should not because they want to.

Contrary to popular opinion, In Search of Lost Time is not really any of those things. It’s fun. Like life, the novel is as much comedy as it is a tragedy, with too much of both to ever be either. A profound examination of the…


In a Proustian moment, vision overcomes sight

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Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

Proust and his family have two ways to walk from the Combray house: one is Guermantes and the other, Swann. Swann has remained a distant specter; he is the last visitor accepted by Marcel’s aunt (she is the last person he continues to visit in the house), but because of his marriage he remains outcast in Combray’s polite society. This ostracization extends to seeing him on the street, an event that Marcel’s family goes to considerable length to avoid. They do not walk his way, despite that there is a charming park in that direction and that it is occasionally…


Read these for great frights and excellent prose

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Photo by Roman Denisenko on Unsplash

It’s Halloween time, and while there are many movies to watch, costumes to make, tricks to play, and treats to eat, there is also a great deal of good horror books to read. Horror stories are so ingrained in our culture that it’s easy to pretend like they’re all the same. Zombies, vampires, witches, ghosts, and demons. …


Because nothing is more exciting than a book that breaks the rules

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Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Walter Benjamin once said, “All great works of literature either invent or dissolve a genre.” This is as true today as it was when he said it.

Too often books are divided into useless, sometimes even harmful, categories that discourage readers from exploring literature that will change their lives. One of the more useless, and harmful, labels a book can have is “experimental,” which excites and interests some readers (who would have likely found those books anyway) and scares away other readers who think of “experimental” as difficult.

“Experimental” books have value because they broaden what the novel can do…

Sebastian S

Writing reviews about real books from fictional perspectives. twofoldtwilight.substack.com

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