The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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Such Is This [email protected], by Hu Fayun
There has never been a good time to be an honest writer in Communist China, but the present is an exceptionally bad time. Spooked by the "Arab Spring" and jostling for position in next year's scheduled leadership changes, the Party bosses have been coming down hard on every kind of independent thinking. The cases of... Read More
Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon
In his invaluable Reader's Manifesto, literary critic B.R. Myers, skewering current literary fads, offers a spoof list of rules for serious writers. Rule II is: I naturally had Myers' mock precept in mind when approaching Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle — three damned, thick, square books weighing in at a total of over 2,600 pages. My... Read More
Freddy and Fredericka, by Mark Helprin
King George VI of England reigned from 1936 to his death in 1952. He was succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth, the present Queen. Mark Helprin's new novel puts us in a alternative universe where George died in 1945, apparently without issue, the throne passing to a younger brother Harry. (Who seems not to have been... Read More
I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe
How does this conservative look forward to a new Tom Wolfe novel? Let me count the ways. • The political incorrectness. Well, not exactly that. Tom Wolfe takes no point of view, has no bill of goods to sell. He just calmly, coolly records the way things are, the way people look and talk, the... Read More
History. Britain in Revolution by Austin Woolrych. This only came out in November, and then only in Britain, but I jumped on Amazon-U.K. and ordered a copy right away, and am now reading it with great pleasure. Woolrych, who is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Lancaster, in the north of England, and... Read More
I hasten to say that this is not the first French novel I have read. There was a period of my life when I read little else but French novels. (In translation, let me add. Having mastered the label on the HP Sauce bottle in childhood, I found that the desire to read texts in... Read More
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 Time Machine Directed by Simon Wells, Gore Verbinski Starring Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba Screenplay by John Logan Dreamworks Studios Science fiction comes in two varieties: pure and applied. The purpose of pure science fiction is, in the words of the late Kingsley Amis, "to arouse wonder, terror and excitement." The purpose of applied science... Read More
On Tuesday night I went to the opera to see Norma. What follows here is not exactly a review. I know my place, and I leave serious musical commentary to my colleague Jay Nordlinger, who does it superbly well (see almost any issue of The New Criterion). This is more in the nature of what... 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
Strolling around Disneyland this summer, re-acquainting myself with Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Mister Toad, Simba, and so on, the following reflection occurred to me: That these strange imagined characters were originally (at one slight remove, in Simba's case) the creations of some very bourgeois persons. Barrie, Grahame, Milne and Kipling were conventional, sober, uxorious,... Read More
The Book on the Bookshelf, by Henry Petroski
Going out on a limb here, I shall hazard a guess that readers of this periodical are more bookish than the average. Probably they have all, like this reviewer, wrestled with the problems of organizing and shelving their books. The subject matter of Henry Petroski's The Book on the Bookshelf will therefore be close to... 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
The Late Mr. Shakespeare, by Robert Nye
In case you hadn't noticed, we are in the middle of a Shakespeare boom. There was that charming movie, of course; then a barrage of Bard books — Park Honan's biography, Harold Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human and John Berryman's Shakespeare. A new film of A Midsummer Night's Dream is to be released... 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 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
Purple America, by Rick Moody
Of the British poet Philip Larkin, one obituarist observed that while Larkin's verse could not be faulted on technical grounds, he still could never be admitted to the front rank of poets because his work did not affirm anything. The novelist Rick Moody inspires some similar reflection. Though very accomplished, in what I think we... 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
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