Common Reading, By Stefan Collini

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This collection of essays takes the same approach as its subjects, "figures [who] mostly attempted to sail a course between the rocks of journalistic superficiality and academic unreadability."

Too often, contemporary essays are tainted by the latter peril, but Collini, though a literature professor at Cambridge, writes with lively wit and insight. He suggests that Cyril Connolly has "become the sort of figure that trade publishers just love... At the mere sound of his name, [they] fantasise about flocks of 'general readers' rising like rooks from a field."

Considering Edmund Wilson, he notes that "it is all too easy to see him as the Sidney Greenstreet of literature." Penetrating, down-to-earth, often hilarious, these essays are perfect brain food for the New Year.