The Half-life of an American Essayist

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David R. Godine Publisher, 2007 - Literary Criticism - 182 pages
The twelve essays in The Half-Life-the title is from Goethe's Experience is only half of experience-go deeper than the standard book piece; they hew to the line first drawn by Montaigne and later extended by Dr. Johnson, Hazlitt, Woolf and Orwell. Although there may be no preordained way of writing about literature, Krystal takes his cue from Edwin Denby, who maintained that the first duty of the critic is to be interesting. No matter how large the subject-whether it is the history of boxing or the growth of the Holocaust industry, Krystal paints broad subjects with precise brushstrokes. Erudite and informative, his essays are still accessible to the general reader. The reason is simple: as Dr. Johnson noted, What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. To this one might add that there is satisfaction to be had in the effort itself. How else could one write as committedly and entertainingly about Paul Valery's Cahiers as about Joe Louis's left jab?
 

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User Review  - michaelm42071 - LibraryThing

In the title essay Krystal whines about the diminishing market for essays, though Yale published his first collection in 2002 and Godine published this one. Krystal writes about the history of ... Read full review

The Half-Life of an American Essayist

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Cantankerous freelancer Krystal (Agitations: Essays on Life and Literature ) here offers his second collection of literary essays, including pieces previously published inThe American Scholar, Harper ... Read full review

Contents

An African American in Regency England
42
My Holocaust Problem
73
The Inexhaustible Paul Valery
89
Jacques Barzun Lionel Trilling
107
The Life of Raymond Chandler
124
Who Speaks for the Lazy?
172
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About the author (2007)

Arthur Krystal is a full-time essayist, part-time editor, and sometime screenwriter. He has edited Jacques Barzun's The Culture We Deserve and A Company of Readers, a selection of essays written by Barzun, W.H. Auden, and Lionel Trilling for The Readers' Subscription and Mid-Century Book Clubs. Krystal's own reviews and essays have appeared in The American Scholar, Harper's, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, The Washington Post Book World, The Times Literary Supplement, Sports Illustrated, and Arts & Antiques.

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