The New York Times

By the Book: Daniel Mendelsohn

DANIEL MENDELSOHN ON HIS FONDNESS OF LITERARY CRITICISM, THE CLASSICS AND BOOKS ABOUT HOME DECOR AND HAUTE COUTURE

Q: What books are on your nightstand?

A: There’s a bunch, because I’ve always got books that I’m writing about in addition to books I’m reading for pleasure. For pleasure, I’m reading “The Journals of Denton Welch,” the strangely wonderful English novelist and artist who died tragically young in the 1940s. About 10 years ago I read his three autobiographical novels, which are just not like anything else: There’s a gossamer delicacy of feeling that teeters on the edge on feyness, but it’s never precious, because there’s also a steeliness in the writing, a detachment in his willingness to confront real emotional strangeness. I only last month discovered the journals which, apart from very moving material about his life, offers tons of delicious tidbits, from entire scenes (a hilarious lunch with Edith Sitwell, who was his champion) to small moments when the writing itself stops you in your tracks. At one point he compares the sound of a harpsichord “to a large and very beautiful cat unsheathing its claws, pawing the air, mouthing, miawlling.”

For work, I’ve got a bunch of books about Virgil’s “The Aeneid,” a new translation of which I’m writing

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