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New York Review Books
Over the past decade and a half, Daniel Mendelsohn’s reviews for <i>The New York Review of Books</i>, <i>The New Yorker</i>, and <i>The New York Times Book Review</i> have earned him a reputation as “one of the greatest critics of our time” (<i>Poets& Writers</i>). In <i>Waiting for the Barbarians</i>, he brings together twenty-four of his recent essays—each one glinting with “verve and sparkle,” “acumen and passion”—on a wide range of subjects, from <i>Avatar</i> to the poems of Arthur Rimbaud, from our inexhaustible fascination with the <i>Titanic</i> to Susan Sontag’s <i>Journals</i>. Trained as a classicist, author of two internationally best-selling memoirs, Mendelsohn moves easily from penetrating considerations of the ways in which the classics continue to make themselves felt in contemporary life and letters (Greek myth in the <i>Spider-Man</i> musical, Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho) to trenchant takes on pop spectacles—none more explosively controversial than his dissection of <i>Mad Men</i>.<br><br>Also gathered here are essays devoted to the art of fiction, from Jonathan Littell’s Holocaust blockbuster <i>The Kindly Ones</i> to forgotten gems like the novels of Theodor Fontane. In a final section, “Private Lives,” prefaced by Mendelsohn’s<i>New Yorker</i> essay on fake memoirs, he considers the lives and work of writers as disparate as Leo Lerman, Noël Coward, and Jonathan Franzen. <i>Waiting for the Barbarians</i> once again demonstrates that Mendelsohn’s “sweep as a cultural critic is as impressive as his depth.”