In his essay on the historian/philosopher Gershom Sholem, George Steiner enumerates “some of the gifts and qualities scholarship requires: exceeding concentration, a capacious but minutely precise memory, finesse and a sort of pious skepticism in the handling of evidence and source, clarity of presentation…the truly great scholar becomes one with his material, however abstruse, however recondite.…” This collection of Steiner’s essays written for The New Yorker between 1967 and 1997 offers abundant proof that Steiner’s own work exemplified precisely these qualities. Steiner’s subjects range from linguistics, literature, art, history, architecture, politics, Greek philosophers, and religions to biographical critiques of great men and infamous ones. His analyses of well-known works, such as 1984, or of a classic poet like Celine, create new and highly original paths of thinking. This extraordinary collection of essays will be enjoyed by all intelligent readers wishing to continue their intellectual growth.
Eleanor Ehrenkranz received her Ph.D. from NYU and has taught at Stern College, NYU, Mercy College, and at Pace University. She has lectured widely on Jewish literature and recently published anthology of Jewish poetry, Explaining Life: The Wisdom of Modern Jewish Poetry, 1960 – 2010.