Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom is an English lecturer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He has written for The New Yorker, The Arabesques Review, The Baltimore Sun, The Current, Horizon Magazine, The Orlando Sentinel, and other publications. His translation of Albert Camus's Notebooks 1951-1959 (Rowman and Littlefield) was nominated for the 2009 French-American and Florence Gould Foundation's excellence in translation award.

Recent Articles

The Best of David Foster Wallace

When the novelist learned to escape his own mind, he got a little closer to the greatness he sought.

(Flickr/Courtesy of the Lannan Foundation)
M ay 2005, Kenyon College, Ohio. David Foster Wallace steps to the podium and looks out at the graduating seniors before him. He tugs at his academic robe and bends toward the microphone, hair falling onto his face. Sweat beads and drips over his body. “If anybody feels like perspiring,” Wallace says, “I’d invite you to go ahead, ’cause I’m sure goin’ to.” He reaches into his pocket for a handkerchief and begins to relate the first of several parables: “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’” Laughter ripples through the convocation room. The gathered seniors, those who’d previously heard of David Foster Wallace, author of the scene-smashing, biblically large 1996 novel Infinite Jest , but like so many others hadn’t actually...

Nationals Pride

After 79 years, Washington, D.C., finally has a major league baseball team in the playoffs.

Ryan Bloom
Ryan Bloom After more than 500 consecutive losses, racing president Teddy Roosevelt finally wins. I t’s a blazing hot Sunday afternoon on Half Street, Southeast, just outside of Nationals Park. The heat is nothing new for D.C., though. Washington’s summer scorchers were well known to even the capital’s earliest residents—an assemblage of land speculators, slaves, and government workers—but this Sunday feels especially sticky and unbearable. Not even the breeze off the Anacostia River helps. Despite the weather, packs of baseball fans crowd Half and First and N streets, many clad in sweat-stained jerseys and red wool hats stitched with a curly “W.” Vendors mill around makeshift tents and collapsible tables set up along the sidewalks; some stands teem with T-shirts and jerseys, some with bottled water, “ice cold, ice cold,” and some with the traditional peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Unanchored entrepreneurs roam the area, their arms lined with knockoff caps, hawked to the tirelessly...

The Making of a Madman

A.N. Wilson's new biography explains how losing money, mother, and mind created Hitler.

(Flickr / Daniel Semper)
How are monsters made? How do the Neros and Caligulas, the Stalins and Maos come into existence? One of the most frequent explanations for those preternatural torturers of small animals, those psychopathic murderers and genocidal maniacs is actually quite simple: It’s all the parents’ fault. As poet Philip Larkin wrote, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.” And it’s not just physical abuse that begets monsters but emotional and psychological abuse as well. Does this explain Adolf Hitler, the “ultimate demon-tyrant of history,” as British journalist A.N. Wilson, author of the short biography, Hitler , calls him? In the autobiography, Mein Kampf ( My Struggle ), while relating a third-person account of his childhood, Hitler illustrates the daily psychological, emotional, and even physical abuse inflicted by his family: “When the parents fight … their brutality leaves nothing to the imagination [and] the results of such visual education must slowly but inevitably become apparent in the...

Under the Covers, Between the Sheets

With the new translation of the Kama Sutra, it's not all about sex.

(Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition/Malika Favre)
(Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition/Malika Favre) Cover image of A.N.D. Haksar's new translation of the Kama Sutra, illustrated by Malika Favre. S ex sells. If you want to push a product, add a dash of sex appeal. Even Sir Richard Francis Burton and his band of co-translators realized this back in 1883: When they first introduced Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra to the Western world, they sold it as a sex manual. More than a hundred years later, the publishers at Penguin Books know that not much has changed. Orientalist scholar and Sanskrit translator A.N.D. Haksar’s new interpretation of the 2,000-year-old Indian text allows a fresh opportunity for Penguin to play upon our eroticized beliefs about the Kama Sutra . For this latest incarnation, the publishers hired French graphic designer Malika Favre to create a series of alluring alphabet images for the book’s cover. Each image, composed of a sexually positioned man and woman, forms a letter in the title, such that when you unfold the flaps and...

And Then There Was Light, Man

Mimicking a familiar format, Alan Lightman's Mr. g fails to create a unique world.

As an undergraduate student, in order to acquire financial aid, I agreed to take a special first-year seminar called The Creative Process. In the class, we discussed such questions as “What is art?” and, in more concrete form, “Why do we refer to the urinal in the bathroom as simply a place for waste when we call the urinal on the gallery wall a masterpiece?” Halfway through the semester, the professor, a 50-year-old woman with dyed-black, bobbed hair and a necklace that featured a grapefruit-size bust of Jack Skellington, instructed us to consume—to consume —the book Einstein’s Dreams , which, despite its name, was fiction. I did not have high expectations. I could already imagine that the experience was going to be something of a “groovy” ticket to the mother ship. In many ways, I was right. What I hadn’t expected, though, was author Alan Lightman’s uncanny ability to turn psychedelic scientific concepts and abstract philosophy into concrete images and scenes. Which is precisely...