Sam Munson

Letter from Budapest -- "A Magyar takes his pleasures mournfully."

Hungary’s Jews survived until rather late in World War II. The lateness of their sufferings draws the attention starkly to its senselessness and horror — as though they had been shipped off and gassed merely for form’s sake.

Our Man on Achewood

12.8.2004 | Sam Munson | Cultural Affairs | 50 Comments
But perhaps the anarchic, gentle absurdity that is Achewood's stock-in-trade only works if there is a repeated, familiar element that anchors it, that prevents it from becoming a (boring, saccharine, creepy) daydream.

The Fruitful, Consuming Paranoia of Philip K. Dick

10.24.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 2 Comments
As Dick grew older, ingested various drugs in ever-larger quantities, and indulged his compulsive passion for catastrophic relationships with women, his fantasies grew ever more bizarre, and ever more insistent on the illusory and adversarial nature of reality.

Milosz's Heir

10.5.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 1 Comment
"Are you ever going to publish any of your poetry in manuscript?"
"Who do you think I am? Dante?"

Kafka, Comedian

09.28.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 5 Comments
It's hard to imagine a more sublime comedy than the opening scenes of The Metmorphosis, with Gregor's deadpan acceptance of his transformation into a monstrous vermin, his embittered musings on his life, the Yiddish-theatrical rushing around of his parents and sister.

Goodbyes and Decay: On Ford Madox Ford

09.14.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature, Unfairly Forgotten | 1 Comment
I mean no offense to him by calling him perverse; he was something of a pathological liar and a compulsive philanderer, and a confirmed contrarian.

When "Literal" Is A Noun

09.7.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 2 Comments
You frequently find the name of a well-known poet on the cover of a New Translation of someone-or-other. Almost as frequently, one finds a second name beneath the well-known poet's.

The Two Objectivities

08.31.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 1 Comment
The fallacy that a book has a dominating external purpose is true only of the lowest sorts of literature -- political theater, pornography, and the like.

A Correlative Stupidity

08.17.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 1 Comment
We have shown, despite having only a cursory understanding of what stupidity might be, no hesitation in bringing the word into over-common use. This would be fine, except that it has made it almost impossible to use the word "stupid" as a serious criticism.

When Critics Can't Read

08.10.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 1 Comment
Perhaps he does not understand the stories that he is reviewing, and has to fall back on this to avoid the greatest solecism a reviewer can commit: having nothing to say.

The Weight Of Fiction

07.27.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 4 Comments
While the merits of these books are open to debate, it seemed to me that, no matter how excellent they might be, the kind of praise they received was excessive. The adjectives had lost much of their force through overuse.

An Open Letter to Sam Munson & Munson's Reply

07.20.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 1 Comment
Dear Mark, I appreciate you devoting so much time and energy to rebutting me. But I have to say, I'm not entirely convinced.

A Farewell to Blogs

07.20.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 20 Comments
Despite the self-evidently literary nature of Newton's blog, she publishes very little there recognizable as actual criticism.

A Respectable, Fruitless Ménage à Trois

07.13.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature | 4 Comments
To be a Jew is, evidently, to be subjected to an authorial harangue. What subtler commentary on the prophets' enraged and passionate speeches to an adulterous Israel could there be?

"LOVE IS FEAR" -- A Report From the Academy

05.21.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature, The Academy | 1 Comment
While we are talking to Z., his co-editor and collaborator Brian H. hangs palely in the background, muttering to Timothy L. Brian H. has terrible posture, hipster glasses, and a soul patch. He teaches English, and has just written a book on James Tate, called "On James Tate." S. and I once declined to publish H.'s poems in our college magazine. Being an established and important figure, and ten years our senior, he was rather huffy about it. He has not spoken to us since.

Kazin's America

03.19.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature
Instead of the piercing analytical ability found in so many of his contemporaries, Kazin seems limited to a kind of repeated affirmation that the material under his microscope is emphatically and powerfully alive.

A Poet Outside His Time

01.23.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature
For Sassoon, the literary developments of the 20th century simply never happened -- Eliot and Yeats are hardly mentioned; Hemingway does not make an appearance.

A Forgotten Founder

Morris was an astute observer of the French Revolution--eventually, through its excess, becoming wholly suspicious of all egalitarian sentiment in politics. In doing so he grew ever more disenchanted with the vaporings of Thomas Jefferson--this would become a point of lifelong enmity between thern. Morris eventually became minister to France, despite the fact that, by 1790, he had been labeled as a "counter-revolutionary" by James Madison, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. It is a testament to Washington's faith in Morris that he did not let these attacks sway his faith in his appointment.

An Astute Critic of Gallic Anti-Americanism

Revel refers, with deadly irony, to the "precautionary Molotov cocktails" of the anti-globalization protesters in Genoa in 2001; the "gleeful" crowing in the French press over the recent spike in American unemployment, at a time when France's unemployment stood at around 9%; the "hyperdelinquency" of Europe's immigrant youth (scoring one off, perhaps, on Hubert Vedrine, coiner of the word "hyperpower").

Hoaxes Down Under

11.17.2003 | Sam Munson | Literature
The Ern Malley affair is one of the best stories of modern literary times, which makes it difficult to understand why Peter Carey feels he has to fictionalize it.

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