Articles by Matt Seidel

April 18, 2014

Transylvanians Gone Wild: On Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy 0

This might not be the thing one wants to hear before embarking on a 1,500 page quest, but the trilogy is marked by a narrative desultoriness that applies to both its human and political dramas. The novels are in a some ways about widespread distraction and inaction in the face of an impending catastrophe.

March 18, 2014

There Are Two Kinds of Novelists… 19

Owing to the vagaries of evolution and animal husbandry, there are lactose intolerant novelists (Dostoyevsky) and those blessed few for whom a latte does not ruin an afternoon (Marguerite Duras).

March 11, 2014

“My First Buy”: Book Editors Discuss Their Earliest Acquisitions 2

I wondered about the first professional decisions of newly minted editors — be they powerful tastemakers blissfully ignorant of P-and-L statements or recently promoted assistants. What drew them to the first proposal they tried to acquire? Did they look upon the decision as a momentous one? Do they even remember it now?

February 14, 2014

A Valentine’s Day Reading: Dan Rhodes’s Marry Me 0

A hint of menace creeps in; the title seems less and less like a question or plea and more like an imperative to submit to Eros and the attendant havoc.

February 10, 2014

The Immortal Gaviero: Alvaro Mutis’ Maqroll Adventures 2

I can think of no better way to honor both the man and his singular hero possessed of an “incurable wanderlust” and a “vocation for defeat” than by quoting the latter’s bathroom graffiti, bits of wisdom written by the Gaviero in his seclusion.

January 30, 2014

Biographers Cannot Be Choosers: On The Biographical Drive 1

Novelists tend to be repulsed by and attracted to the literary biographer, who is both kindred spirit and antagonist, reviver and executioner, exalted Boswell, and the “lice of literature” (to quote Philip Roth from Exit Ghost).

January 10, 2014

Eminent Hacks 2

We take for granted the difficulty of ascending to the empyrean heights of genius, but descending into the “majesty of mud” poses its own challenges for those unpure hacks not blessed “with all the might of gravitation.” Or to put it in distinctly non-Augustan terms, hackin’ ain’t easy.

November 1, 2013

A Will Shortz Murder Mystery Reviewed 4

Stylistically, Shortz is perhaps over-fond of the pun, haphazardly abbreviates words, and is allergic to apostrophes, but no other living author can so seamlessly integrate crosswordese — those rare words that pop up frequently in grids — into a narrative.

October 18, 2013

Portrait of a Runner: On Mark Slouka’s Brewster 0

It gives me great pleasure to picture the Apostle of Democracy doing quarter-mile repeats on the lawn of Monticello, perhaps in preparation for a match race with his Federalist challenger John Adams at the Founding Fathers Relays. But I digress.

October 2, 2013

Popping the Question: A Survey of Literature’s Non-Traditional Marriage Proposals 3

Some proposals are perhaps better forgotten. The following unromantic, bizarre, poorly delivered or conceived proposals elicit reactions less like Molly Bloom’s orgasmically affirmative “Yes I will yes I will yes!”.

12