Nick Tosches


    This guy never ceases to amaze me. Here he is, pushing eighty, and instead of dimming the lights and shuffling off to somber senescence, he’s upping the ante and teaching new dance steps.

    T. S. Eliot said that the job of poets and saints is “to apprehend / The point of intersection of the timeless / With time.” This job description can be applied as well to the work undertaken by the last of the great philologists, Ernst Robert Curtius and Erich Auerbach, both of whom passed from this world in the late 1950s, just as George Steiner was beginning his academic career as a fellow of the Institute

  • Blurbs for Goops

    I was at the home of my friend Hubert Selby Jr. one day when I noticed several ungodly piles of bound galleys on his floor.

    “Yeah,” Cubby said. “They don’t want to publish my books, but they . . .” He grinned that beautiful fatal grin of his.

    It was a sadly illuminating moment.

    Blurb: a stupid word for a stupid thing. It originated with Gelett Burgess (1866–1951), who gave the name Miss Blinda Blurb to the voluptuous blonde he drew in 1906 to illustrate his comic booklet Are You a Bromide? Eight years later, in Burgess Unabridged: A New Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed (1914), he

  • World Without End

    As the millennium drew to its dismal close, George Steiner was asked to choose the best book of the past thousand years. He named the Commedia, saying: “Dante’s totality of poetic form and philosophic thought, of ‘local universality’ and language, remains unrivaled. At a time when the notion of culture and of European culture, in particular, is in doubt, Dante is the sovereign underwriter.”

    Steiner is perhaps the last of them: the grand masters of erudition who brought illumination to, and brought to the service of illumination, the histories of words, languages, and literatures, the confluences