Critical Mass

Critical LIbrary: Wendy Lesser

By Eric Banks

Each week, the NBCC will post a list of five books a critic believes reviewers should have in their libraries. We recently heard from novelist, essayist and Threepenny Review editor Wendy Lesser, who left Orwell off her list when she saw he had been mentioned before several times, adding: “Here are five books of criticism that have been useful to me in my reviewing/criticism training, though I am not sure the same five would work for everyone:”

William Empson, Milton’s God: a great critic confronts a great poet.

Randall Jarrell, Poetry and the Age: periodical reviews raised to a high art form, stylistically and intellectually.

Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination: the human face of the academy, at its most intelligent and generous.

Elizabeth Hardwick, Seduction and Betrayal: wit, subtlety, and sharpness of a special and inimitable kind.

Susan Sontag, On Photography: the best book by a brave, sometimes moralistic, but always moral critic.

Wendy Lesser is the author of one novel and seven works of criticism and memoir, including “The Amateur,” “Nothing Remains the Same,” a book about murder, a meditation on British director Stephen Daldry, and, most recently,“Room for Doubt,” which will be out in paperback in January. She has also edited two anthologies of essays. She founded The Threepenny Review, which she edits, in 1980. You can see her on October 11th at the NBCC’s panel on Edmund Wilson, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Cantor Film Center.