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George Steiner at The New Yorker (New Directions Paperbook) Kindle Edition

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Length: 331 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Editor, author, and professor Boyers presents an important collection of work by author and social commentator George Steiner that first appeared in the pages of The New Yorker. Steiner's brilliance is revealed in every one of these essays, showcasing his vast topical knowledge alongside his deft ability to pin down the significance of history's most important people, events and ideas. Steiner hones in on figures often left in the background, such as Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and minister of armaments, who spent nearly 20 years in the prison Spandau. Steiner's 1983 examination of the George Orwell's 1984 is witty, detailed and authoritative, proving an insightful look at the novel's importance even after some 35 years of scholarly attention. Steiner's essays are each marvelously executed feats of synthesis, internalizing, interpreting and contrasting timeless events, literature and figures (including Graham Greene, Borges, chess playing and the OED). Steiner's intelligence and intuitiveness won't fail to impress, providing ample justification for his three decades as a powerful cultural critic.
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From Booklist

Often criticized as elitist, Steiner wrote for the New Yorker between 1967 and 1997 on a broad array of topics, with evident depth of knowledge and an enthusiasm that is contagious to readers whether or not they are familiar with the subject. In this collection of 150 essays, Steiner puts art, literature, even chess into broader context, providing rich language and fine analysis. In an essay on Anthony Blunt, British art historian and Soviet spy, Steiner offers lessons on art history, an appreciation for all that goes into the craft, the tools and techniques as well as sensory awareness, then coolly goes on to detail Blunt’s treason, “as ancient as whoredom.” In 1984, Steiner examined George Orwell’s 1984, how and why it came to be so titled, its enduring significance, and the potential coercion of prophecy as Orwell “put his signature and claim on a piece of time.” The essays are organized according to topic: history and politics, writers and writing, thinkers, and life studies. This collection showcases Steiner’s depth of analysis and the thrill of sharing with readers. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • File Size: 1074 KB
  • Print Length: 331 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (January 30, 2009)
  • Publication Date: April 15, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #678,126 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Giuseppe C. HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
The lavish descriptions bestowed upon Steiner--a polymath, a Renaissance man, the founder of a new school of multidisciplinary criticism, a multi-linguist who is as comfortable speaking in the symbols of mathematics as the signifiers of his reputed mother tongues (German, English and French) not to mention the "dead" languages of ancient Greek and Latin--have more often than not done him a disservice in the decidedly anti-intellectual milieu of our times. Then, too, there's the centrality of the Holocaust to his experience, helping shape a sensibility that is still capable of being not merely appalled but genuinely shocked that the instigators of man's inhumanity to man should be cut out of cloth not all that different from his own.

But Steiner's closeness to the atrocities of his own ethnic past acts paradoxically as a distancing lens affording the rest of us a perspective on the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of our own time. He knows about the dangers of nationalism and aggression, and is never one to sacrifice the life of the mind to the exigencies of what may appear to be in the national interest. Injustice must be met at its source, which is human language. Hence, rather than risk Balkanization in space or time, he rejects Jewish nationalism as well as American isolationism, demonstrating in his writings the unbounded freedom to be found in the cultures, art and literature of the past, all the while bringing these interests into harmony with the projects of modern philosophy and science.

Don't read this collection of essays as the loud, proud effusions of a brilliant mind, or that's all they'll be. Rather, try to read them as a travelogue and guide for the culturally deprived, or merely the curious.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 28, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Steiner was a regular contributor to the New Yorker for approximately 30 years (1966-1997). This collection is not exhaustive, but it includes many excellent pieces, among them those on Anthony Blunt, Chomsky, Sir James Murray, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Albert Speer, Orwell, Brecht, Borges, Beckett, Bertrand Russell and Arthur Koestler. Most are reviews of books with excursuses, in the 19thc manner. Most are ‘positive’ though some are not (e.g. the piece on John Barth). Many are ‘mixed’ (e.g. the piece on Celine).

Steiner is, of course, working within page constraints. With the exception of the long piece on the art historian/traitor Anthony Blunt, most are brief (8-10 pp.) but nonetheless trenchant. They are generally more accessible pieces than some of the denser arguments within his major books.

They are, of course, never dull, and the format in which he is working permits him to offer a whole host of interesting asides. I love the bon-mots, e.g. his comments (p. 175) on “the loud graffiti of erotic and political emancipation that currently pass for fiction and poetry” or his comment (p. 243, writing in 1984), that “we seem to be governed by more or less mendacious dwarfs and mountebanks.” While he can be curmudgeonly he can also be worshipful, as in the lovely piece on Hutchins and that on the friendship between Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin.

This is a must-read for every reader interested in Steiner and for anyone interested in 20thc thought, art and culture.

Highly recommended.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend this volume to anyone who enjoys social and literary criticism at its best. George Steiner, who turns eighty this year, is one of the western world's keenest and most eloquent intellectuals and essayists. The New Yorker pieces, mostly book reviews, are a splendid sample of his work.

Mr. Steiner's prose is pyrotechnic, his paragraphs and sentences dense with meaning. His style, rich and erudite, may not appeal to everyone. But his insights and nuanced recreation of our intellectual and aesthetic past is a feast.

His review devoted to Britain's Curator of Art, Anthony Blunt, is a masterpiece of irony. His work is not stodgy. His analysis of the poems of Paul Celan's (born Paul Antschel) and their concise evocation of the Holocaust is both studied and emotional. The subject bears upon Mr. Steiner's most painful aesthetic conflict. From his own telling, nothing has preoccupied him more than how a nation of such hoch kultur, Germany, could exact such evil.

Buy the book, by all means. But I cannot refrain from commenting further.

I find George Steiner's intellectual dilemma painfully authentic. It is a great pity it is unfounded. Germany's bent for militancy and evil is neither mysterious nor contradictory. At the time of World War II and before it, from the time of its unification, German culture was not high at all. Bach, Schubert, and Goethe are not representative; far from it. In every sense of the word, they are exceptional. It is disturbing to me that Mr. Steiner equates the culture of a nation with that of a handful of brilliant musicians and writers.
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