Talking with Daniel Mendelsohn about the year in literary criticism

“Waiting for the Barbarians,” Daniel Mendelsohn’s new collection of criticism (much of it originally published in the New York Review of Books and the New Yorker), testifies to the author’s wide-ranging and omnivorous tastes. With his background as a classicist and his track record as a one-time weekly reviewer for New York magazine, he’s as authoritative (and as happy) writing about Herodotus and “Avatar,” pop culture’s fascination with the Titanic and Susan Sontag, Noël Coward and Jonathan Franzen. There could be no better partner for a conversation about the surprisingly tumultuous arguments about the state of book reviewing in 2012.Our theme is the year in criticism, and there’s plenty to talk about, but first I have to express my astonishment over what we didn’t see this year: I can’t recall any memoir being exposed as partly or wholly fictional!I know! It’s very disappointing. There was a while there when it seemed like every time you opened a newspaper there was a new one. There was the girl in L.A. who said she grew up in a gang when she really went to a prep school, and the lady who fled the Nazis and went running with the wolves. I’ve decided that the phony memoir is my favorite genre.Continue Reading…

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Talking with Daniel Mendelsohn about the year in literary criticism

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