The purpose of art is to delight us; certain men and women (no smarter than you or I) whose art can delight us have been given dispensation from going out and fetching water and carrying wood. It's no more elaborate than that. — David Mamet

I still think that this is stronger than the first book — itself a remarkable achievement, since middle books have intrinsic problems that I have always thought intractable. I'm even less surethat the usual consensus, holding this to be stronger than The Amber Spyglass, is correct; if we didn't know the marvels that were coming, would this book be quite so fine? In the end, it’s only the end of The Amber Spyglass that justifies this book.

The sly, slow disclosure that life here is not entirely fun and adventure is literally wonderful.

December 1, 2018 (permalink)


I’ve been reading Pullman’s new collection of essays, and that led me to revisit this magnificent trilogy. The first volume of His Dark Materials, barely hints at the wonders to come and yet is itself a delightful story of childhood adventure.

December 1, 2018 (permalink)


Washington’s Crossing
David Hackett Fischer

The American Revolution nearly failed. At the end of 1776, the President sent New Year’s wishes to General Washington, hoping that the new year would be nothing like the horrible year they had just endured.

All that was about to change. In fact, it had already changed with Washington’s daring Christmas expedition across the Delaware. In the following weeks, Washington’s winter campaign in New Jersey invigorated the sagging spirits of liberty, dismayed the British and Hessian professionals, and changed the world.

December 1, 2018 (permalink)


Roger Ebert was a great film critic and a newspaperman at the end of one of the great City Rooms. In his later years, cancer surgery deprived him of the ability either to eat or to talk. Ebert turned to blogging and became the greatest voice of the weblog era. This autobiography is his authentic Web voice.

From Mike Royko’s hat stand (a relic of the old Wacker Street Daily News newsroom) to John Wayne’s boat, Robert Mitchum’s wrong turn, or the meeting of Ingmar Bergman and David Lean, Royko has the story. The central chapters on drinking and not drinking are unmatched, the pinnacle of the confessional weblog, written with immediacy and yet avoiding convention and sermonizing.

November 20, 2018 (permalink)