Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture

Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture

by Daniel Mendelsohn
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Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture by Daniel Mendelsohn


Over the past decade and a half, Daniel Mendelsohn’s reviews for The New York Review of BooksThe New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review have earned him a reputation as “one of the greatest critics of our time” (Poets & Writers). In Waiting for the Barbarians, he brings together twenty-four of his recent essays—each one glinting with “verve and sparkle,” “acumen and passion”—on a wide range of subjects, from Avatar to the poems of Arthur Rimbaud, from our inexhaustible fascination with the Titanic to Susan Sontag’s Journals. Trained as a classicist, author of two internationally best-selling memoirs, Mendelsohn moves easily from penetrating considerations of the ways in which the classics continue to make themselves felt in contemporary life and letters (Greek myth in the Spider-Man musical, Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho) to trenchant takes on pop spectacles—none more explosively controversial than his dissection of Mad Men.

Also gathered here are essays devoted to the art of fiction, from Jonathan Littell’s Holocaust blockbuster The Kindly Ones to forgotten gems like the novels of Theodor Fontane. In a final section, “Private Lives,” prefaced by Mendelsohn’s New Yorker essay on fake memoirs, he considers the lives and work of writers as disparate as Leo Lerman, Noël Coward, and Jonathan Franzen. Waiting for the Barbarians once again demonstrates that Mendelsohn’s “sweep as a cultural critic is as impressive as his depth.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590177136
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 03/04/2014
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 791,035
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Daniel Mendelsohn’s reviews and essays on literary and cultural subjects appear frequently in The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. His books include a memoir, The Elusive Embrace, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; the international best seller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; an acclaimed translation of the works of C. P. Cavafy; and a previous collection of essays, How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken. He teaches at Bard College.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

April 16, 1960

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Classics, University of Virginia, 1982; M.A., Classics, Princeton University, 1989; Ph.D., 1994

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Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BHenricksen More than 1 year ago
Daniel Mendelsohn is a cultural critic and scholar whose interests range from classical literature to contemporary film. He brings life and depth to scholarly issues concerning translation of the Iliad. He takes on the task of placing Sappho's love poems back into the context of their own cultural moment. His explication the film Avatar brilliantly explores its departure from our culture's usual tale of our encounter with a supposedly primitive "other." Mendelsohn discusses the subtext of the film Titanic before moving on to an analysis of the great novel by Stendhal, Charterhouse of Parma. Refusing to pull punches, he looks at the underlying causes of Susan Sontag's mediocrity as a novelist, and he finds a coldness in Jonathan Franzen's fiction that is also apparent in his nonfictional pronouncements and posturings. What weaves these essays together is Mendelsohn's own presence, always vivid, witty, and worldly.