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The Varieties of Romantic Experience, by Robert Cohen
Here are ten short stories by the author of last year's much-praised novel Inspired Sleep. That was Robert Cohen's third novel; this is his first story collection. Cohen is a writer and teacher of Creative Writing at a small New England liberal-arts college. The stories here range from five to forty pages in length and... Read More
The Bay of Angels, by Anita Brookner
Anita Brookner won England's prestigious Booker Prize for her fourth novel Hotel du Lac in 1984. I read that book at the time but, while I thought there was much to admire in it, did not find it sufficiently to my taste to want to follow the author's subsequent development. I see with some dismay... Read More
Jacobson's Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell, by Lyall Watson
In its description of the human nose, my 1901 edition of Gray's Anatomy includes this sentence: "In the septum … a minute orifice may be discerned: it leads into a blind pouch, the rudimentary organ of Jacobson." (The septum is the interior wall between the two nostrils.) Probably very few people have heard of this... Read More
A Gesture Life, by Chang-rae Lee
This is an excellent second novel by the author of Native Speaker, which came out in 1995. That book won several prizes, but I confess it was not for me. I do not like ethnic fiction and shall greet with joy the day, if it ever arrives, when American writers produce a full year's crop... Read More
Europa, by Tim Parks
Tim Parks is an Englishman who has lived most of his adult life in Italy. Since the publication of his first book thirteen years ago he has toiled away in the vineyards of literature, turning out novels (Europa is his ninth), translations, and essays about Italian life. Long residence abroad has freed Parks from the... Read More
The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, by Mario Vargas Llosa
A reviewer in the Wall Street Journal recently wondered aloud whether body functions have any proper place in literature. A lot of us are asking the same question. Few serious novelists any longer use sex as the main point of a story, and a growing minority — more men than women, it is interesting to... Read More
A Thread of Years, by John Lukacs
"I was advised to write an introduction to this book." Thus the first sentence of A Thread of Years . While not quite as arresting as the opening words of Francis Toye's life of Rossini ("To the best of my belief there is no demand whatever for a life of Rossini in English"), they give... Read More
A Floating Life, by Simon Elegant
The Chinese of olden times believed that immortals who misbehaved in Heaven were banished to live out a human life on Earth, where they might be encountered as wild, eccentric persons of extraordinary gifts. The best known of these "banished immortals" was the poet Li Po, who lived A.D. 701-762. I think Li is known,... Read More
The Handmaid of Desire, by John L'Heureux
John L'Heureux's seventh novel is being promoted by its publisher as an academic satire. This is a bit like calling Moby Dick a whaling yarn: true, but somewhat less than the full truth. The Handmaid of Desire concerns the English Department of an unnamed university in California. The faculty is divided into two camps: fools... Read More
The Debt to Pleasure, by John Lanchester
The veil and the mask; the blizzard of allusions; the dawning realisation that our charming, erudite, terrifically cultured narrator is, in point of fact, barking mad — this territory looks familiar. Mr. Lanchester, reading reviews of his book, is going to get mighty sick of the adjective "Nabokovian." It would be an injustice to him... Read More
John Derbyshire
About John Derbyshire

John Derbyshire writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at