adam kirsch’s favorite books


My two favorite books of 2007 could not have less in common on the surface. Yet “Matters of Honor” (Knopf, 320 pages, $24.95), a novel by Louis Begley, and “Ambition and Survival” (Copper Canyon, 249 pages, $18), a prose collection by Christian Wiman, converge in ways that suggest how little the outward tokens of “identity” have to do with a writer’s true self. Mr. Begley, a Jewish Holocaust survivor in his 70s, and Mr. Wiman, born to a Southern Baptist family in Texas in the 1960s, are united by their devotion to literary art, and their ironic awareness of the cost that devotion exacts. Perhaps it is because these two books are so morally and intellectually strenuous — though never recondite, and always absorbing — that they were greeted with resistance by many reviewers.

more from the NY Sun here.