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With pieces covering everything from reading, writing, and the state of the art, to tributes to writer-friends and family members, this collection is witty and engaging throughout. Barth’s “unaffected love of learning” (San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle) and “joy in thinking that becomes contagious” (Washington Post), shine through in this third, and, with an implied question mark, final essay collection.
Various “Indians” had settled in over the last millennium or two and, like Adam in the Garden, had given names to the things around them. In our ears now, those names are both a litany and an elegy: opossum, raccoon, tomahawk, tobacco; also Chesapeake, Choptank, Patapsco, Piankatank, Sassafras, Susquehannah, and the rest.... These musical Algonquian names are about all that remains to us of the people who lived here many times longer than our comparatively short but enormously consequential
the author of the novel—officially certified as a Master of Arts well before I had attained any mastery of the art I aspired to. Even in 1956, with two novels under my belt, I innocently presumed that since I had knocked them off in about six months each, this larger and very different project might take me as long as . . . two years, maybe? In fact it took four, and my only subsequent venture into historical fiction, two decades later—a huge, intricate novel called LETTERS, having to do with our
rolling my freshly-opened eyes. IN THIS VEIN, by way of conclusion I might as well confess—acknowledge, insist, whatever—that some of the farthest-out bits of everyday colonial life in my version of The Sot-Weed Factor—bits that nearly all reviewers took for granted had been invented out of the whole cloth—happen to be literal transcriptions of (reported) historical fact. The infamous eggplant-aphrodisiac recipe, for example, that I thoughtfully provided Captain John Smith with for his
reviewing its positive accomplishments in science, technology, and the arts, including the Hundred Years of Literary Plenitude that inspired this conference: the century of modernismo and of Modernism; of Postmodernism and Magic Realism and El Boom.3 As if, for example, the scientific and cultural enrichment of the United States (and the world) by refugees from European Fascism and Russian Communism—by Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann and Pablo Casals and Vladimir Nabokov and dozens of others in
customary modes of presentation: One thinks of Marc Saporta’s 1962 novel-in-a-box Composition 1, its unnumbered and unbound pages packaged in any random “order” and thus sans any fixed opening sentence at all, or any other authorially-determined beginning, middle, or ending; likewise Daniel Spoerri’s unpaginated Anecdoted Typography of Chance, from 1966. That rebellious, “countercultural” decade was particularly rich (if that’s the right adjective) in this sort of post-Dadaist, pre-computer-era