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How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Daniel Mendelsohn

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11. August 2009

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 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.

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How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays + Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture (New York Review Collections)
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“An elegant collection of essays. . . . Mendelsohn reveals intellectual breadth in his ability to draw on his training as a classicist to look at contemporary culture. . . . These essays richly repay the time readers spend in their company.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Brilliant. . . . Masterful. . . . Wise, funny. . . . A wonderful collection.” (Time Out New York)

“Mendelsohn takes on contemporary culture with humor and incisive analysis.” (The New York Sun)


A volume of critical interpretations of significant modern films features observations about such works as "Brokeback Mountain," "World Trade Center," and "Troy," accompanied by insights into the theater and literature. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe .

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In diesem Buch (Mehr dazu)
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Buchdeckel | Copyright | Inhaltsverzeichnis | Auszug | Rückseite
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Very stimulating and thought-provoking read 10. Oktober 2008
Von Armchair Interviews - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Readers of the New York Review of Books will be familiar with the writings of Daniel Mendelsohn, who has written dozens of reviews of literature, movies and theatre. How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken pulls together many of those reviews, covering everything from movies like "Kill Bill" and "The 300" to Broadway plays such as "The Glass Menagerie" and "The Producers" to books like "The Hours," "Middlesex" and new academic books on history.

Why would anyone want to read a book of old reviews? Well, Mendelsohn is perhaps the best example of how this form can be used as a launching pad for examining large subjects like war and its culpabilities, sex and homosexuality, and human nature. That Mendelsohn does all of this by invoking a lens of the great classicists - Euripides, Homer, Sophocles - is a feat of a great and pointed intelligence.

These are not just reviews, though they are that too. Mendelsohn is a critic, and a stringent and demanding one. Swayed by the opinions of neither the public nor other critics, he deftly, and with great care, strikes at the heart of faults of many books, plays and movies. Despite this, these reviews are not rants, nor are they petty or arrogant. Their power comes from the combination of Mendelsohn's intelligence with his great love of writing, movies and theatre. It is only with the greatest respect that he points out the failings, of both the works of art themselves, and of our culture.

You might expect essays that invoke Sophicles and Homer to be difficult. Another great talent of Mendelsohn is his ability to write of these classic subjects in a very conversational manner - to, in fact, draw in readers who are not familiar with the classics the way he is, to serve as a bridge between the great ideas of history and the popular culture of today.

As I read his essays, I found myself simultaneously intrigued, entertained, and educated - and interested in going back to read, and see, some of these books and movies again.

Armchair Interviews says: An educational and fascinating read.
8 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Brilliant! 15. September 2009
Von T. J. Monika - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
OK, so why put this on your "must read" list? To start, Mendelsohn is a brilliant critic who writes insightfully and without condescension to author, work or audience (reader, movie-goer, etc.). Even when he utterly demolishes his subject, he never descends to snark or gratuitous sniping. Many times, I got the sense of a man exasperated with how close these artists get to creating something of real meaning/value but keep missing the target.

In his introduction, Mendelsohn explains the criteria by which he judges -

(1) Meaningful coherence of form and content;
(2) Precise employment of detail to support (1);
(3) Vigor and clarity of expression; and
(4) Seriousness of purpose (p. xv)

Quite independent of Mendelsohn, I'm happy (and perhaps a bit smug) to say my own judgments have come around to these selfsame points, even regarding the "brain candy" I may read when the "big issues" get tiresome. I find it nearly impossible to read a book anymore (or watch a movie for that matter)where the author can't write, doesn't take her job seriously, or both - even when it's "just" book #347 in Space Bimbos of the Black Sun series.

Oh, but we live in a "dark age" of culture where far too often we eschew wrestling with real tragedy for sentimentalism; melodrama; and feel-good, Lifetime movie endings. This is a common theme in many of the essays found here, from the first essay on Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones through stagings of Tennessee Williams and Euripides, reviews of Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodovar, to Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. (Regarding the latter, Mendelsohn compares Stone's film to Aeschylus' The Persians, and makes the point that, even writing of a glorious Hellenic triumph (Marathon & Salamis), the Greek playwright chose to portray the reactions of the Persians, asking his Athenian audience "to think radically, to imagine something outside of their own experience, to situate the feelings they were having just a vaster frame" (p. 452), whereas Stone's "pretty much exclusive emphasis thus far on the `good' these entertainments is noteworthy, because it reminds you of the unwillingness to grapple with and acknowledge the larger issues...which has characterized much of the natural response to this pivotal trauma (9/11)." (p. 451))

Mendelsohn has inspired me to try opera - a genre for which I have little liking. I don't know why. I understand neither Italian nor French but it's not like I object to subtitles - I love Hong Kong martial arts flicks. And I dated a woman who adored opera and enthralled me with her enthusiastic descriptions of the medium. Whatever the case, the author's analysis of the Met's recent staging of Lucia di Lammermoor "forced" me to check out a DVD of Joan Sutherland's version from the library, and as I write this review, listen to a CD of Ion Marin's version with Cheryl Studer and Placido Domingo. Who knows where this could lead?

And, having read Mendelsohn's reviews of Troy and Alexander - the recent "epics" based on The Iliad and the life of Alexander the Great - I was again compelled. In this case to add them to my Netflix queue if only to see how badly they failed to capture their subjects. (Mendelsohn includes his review of 300 here as well but there are limits. The trailers were stomach churning enough.)

Lastly, I'm rereading Euripides' Medea in light of Mendelsohn's review of Deborah Warner's "vulgar, loud, and uncomprehending" (p. 418) Broadway staging of the play.

At the risk of spoiling your ability to enjoy guilty pleasures like Stephanie Meyer, I strongly recommend this book to one and all.
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Thoughtful Reviews and Essays 24. August 2008
Von Franklin Banks - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Great book. The reviews and essays are thoughtful and learned without pretension and what's even better you don't get those gleeful, nasty quips that critics tend to like. His criticism, when it comes, is thoughtful and right on target. Well worth your time.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Insightful 9. März 2013
Von jch - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
The essays in this book are truly insightful. Mendelsohn is able to move back and forth from ancient literature to modern productions, be they theatrical or cinematic, in a way that illuminates both past and present.
5 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Delightful Education in Critical Thinking 19. September 2008
Von Margaret H. Lane - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
What a great book! I read it as compulsively as any whodunit while painlessly expanding my understanding of a wide range of artistic endeavors. I came away far better versed in the classics and with an expanded capacity to read, view and listen critically (in the best sense). I recommend this as a college text!
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