Afterwords on a few neglected books, from BookSlut

August 4th, 2008

Source: BookSlut.com

Michael Antman passed along links to a short series of articles he wrote for BookSlut.com back in 2006. Titled “Afterwords,” the series focussed on “… some unfairly neglected books of the past century that may not survive much longer in this one.”

Unfortunately, only 5 articles were posted, and even these can only be located by searching for Antman’s contributions to the site. But the essays are eloquent, personal, and insightful, and well worth savoring.

The titles he covered were:

· All the Little Live Things, by Wallace Stegner

“… one of those novels that, from the standpoint of the official arbiters of culture, has very little to recommend it except for its near perfection.”

· The Collected Poems of Conrad Aiken

“But it is sometimes hard to remember that not very long ago, poetry was, if nothing else (and, admittedly, sometimes there was nothing else) a pleasure to read in an almost physical, sensuous way, in the rush and the rhythm of its words. And there were few poets in the twentieth century more purely pleasurable to read in this regard than Conrad Aiken, who possessed a quality of musicality not only greater than any current poets but greater, I think, than nearly any of his contemporaries.”

· The Log from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck

“… Steinbeck took the world on its own terms then, as he would do if he were alive and writing today…. And it is this clear-eyed view of the world in both its fecundity and its ongoing destruction that makes Steinbeck’s worksuch an absorbing account of a time long past. In an age when ocean-dwelling, and for that matter, land-dwelling, creatures are being depleted at an ever-increasing rate, Log from the Sea of Cortez remains an enriching and indelible document.”

· The Night Country, by Loren Eiseley

“Read The Night Country for its beautiful prose and its scientist’s eye. But read it, as well, for its calm assurance that we are part of something much bigger than us, that we cannot know the future with absolute certainty, and that we should proceed with a little less dread of what unknown or self-created terrors may some day desecrate “the very heart of the human kingdom,” and with a little more open-mindedness and, perhaps, playfulness even as we walk into the uncertain dark.”

· The Power of the Dog, by Thomas Savage

“… when a novel succeeds (as Anna Karenina of course does) in creating a character that at least begins to approach the unfathomable complexity of an actual flesh-and-blood human, we consider it to be at least in some degree a great work….

By that measure, Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel The Power of the Dog, set on a Montana ranch some time in the 1920s, is a great, and greatly neglected, work of art, because it contains one of the most complex and fully realized, if utterly loathsome, characters I have ever encountered in a work of fiction.”

[Editor's note: The Power of the Dog was also cited as an unfairly neglected book by Roger Sale way back in 1979 in his American Scholar article on “Neglected Recent American Novels".]

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