Whether he's on Broadway or at the movies, considering a new bestseller or revisiting a literary classic, Daniel Mendelsohn's judgments over the past fifteen years have provoked and dazzled with their deep erudition, disarming emotionality, and tart wit. Now How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken reveals all at once the enormous stature of Mendelsohn's achievement and demonstrates why he is considered one of our greatest critics. Writing with a lively intelligence and arresting originality, he brings his distinctive combination of scholarly rigor and conversational ease to bear across eras, cultures, and genres, from Roman games to video games.
His interpretations of our most talked-about films—from the work of Pedro Almodóvar to Brokeback Mountain, from United 93 and World Trade Center to 300, Marie Antoinette, and The Hours—have sparked debate and changed the way we watch movies. Just as stunning and influential are his dispatches on theater and literature, from The Producers to Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, from The Lovely Bones to the works of Harold Pinter. Together these thirty brilliant and engaging essays passionately articulate the themes that have made Daniel Mendelsohn a crucial voice in today's cultural conversation: the aesthetic and indeed political dangers of imposing contemporary attitudes on the great classics; the ruinous effect of sentimentality on the national consciousness in the post-9/11 world; the vital importance of the great literature of the past for a meaningful life in the present.
How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken makes it clear that no other contemporary thinker is as engaged with as many aspects of our culture and its influences as Mendelsohn is, and no one practices the vanishing art of popular criticism with more acuity, humor, and feeling.
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Daniel Mendelsohn a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker, is the author of the international bestseller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. He teaches at Bard College.From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. In this elegant collection of essays mostly from the New York Review of Books, NBCC award–winning author Mendelsohn reveals intellectual breadth in his ability to draw on his training as a classicist to look at contemporary culture, from movies like Kill Bill to Broadway musicals like The Producers, and the novels Middlesex and Everyman. They are springboards for Mendelsohn's agile mind to examine subjects like gender, homosexuality, war and peace. In Victims on Broadway I he eloquently peels back layer after layer of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie and criticizes not only the 2005 Broadway production as stripped of the nuances of character and sensibility but also the audience for what he sees as their inability to perceive pathos. In a magisterial essay, Mendelsohn finds the same flaw in the blockbuster movie Troy that he believes marred the ancient, lost Greek epics the Cypria and the Little Iliad: unlike Homer's Iliad, they have not a single unifying action, but a single unifying notion lacking in epic grandeur. These essays richly repay the time readers spend in their company. (Aug. 12)
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