Small Press Spotlight
If you find a Graywolf Press book at your bookstore (and this becomes more and more likely), look at it carefully. The cover is unusually handsome, the typography and layout are fresh and attractive, and the paper sends a paper-freak like me into a fit of ecstasy. Moreover, you can buy it and be certain that you have bought a book that is not only worth reading, but one that is worth owning.
This is a collection of nine essays on fiction and style. Baxter seeks out speculations that are ignored in most inquiries, and he asks of them Why? and of feasible alternatives, Why not? He finds in Donald Barthelme the writer that best expresses his aims. Written in non-academic English with no attempt to conceal meaning or to hide its absence, Baxters book is a pleasurable read, and serves as a handbook of good sense and sound taste in fiction.
Kauffmans Characters on the Loose is a smoldering collection of stories with little reserve about sexual activity, and a refreshing absence of the labored or self-conscious style such stories customarily entail. The stories are mostly very short, although Kauffman pursues her fancies without restraint. She describes bereaved widows and the unexpected avenues that sorrow sometimes takes. There are mothers some of them are kindly, some of them are monsters. Many stories contain a suggestion of the aleatory, as if she set characters in motion to encounter, as if by accident, other characters or situations that will happen to elicit finalities. This is a subtle book for sophisticated readers.
Ralph is a baby who has the consciousness of a an adult but he does not speak. He can read and prefers serious books. Troubled by his precocity, his parents seek professional help. Unfortunately the professional help is demented. She, her rivals, and a crazed colonel set out to capture Ralph to use him for their individual purposes. The Keystone Kops extravaganza that closes the book is a fitting finale to a satire on society and learning. Everett brings to his task a fertile imagination, a take-no-prisoners sense of humor, and a relish for the absurd that set this book in a class by itself.
A reissue of an original work from 1992, this new edition contains an Afterword intended to bring it up to date. The widespread neglect of poetry has many causes; but Gioia finds the academic absorption of the poetic activity to be the most harmful. Although this idea appears susceptible to alternative interpretations, it is a damning fact that only poets read poets, responding with reviews that are enthusiastic, kind, and often untrue. Gioia also asks for the revival of older genres, and decries what passes for education in the art of poetry. In his own assessment of poetry, he observes his own rule, offering praise for some and censure for others. Although occasionally he wanders into dim areas, Gioia is always interesting and often very witty. This is an essential book by a practising poet who knows and loves his subject.
Although the performances are uneven, Hayes is an author of great promise, and there are many solid achievements in this collection of short stories. Hayes concentrates on sexual behavior, and in at least two of the stories, this concentration is greater than the characters can support while still sustaining the interest of the reader. But at his best and his best is considerable Hayes brings into focus insights that are memorable and moving. Neither an easy book nor one for every reader, it is within its limitations a fresh and original work.
Goldbarth, a poet and essayist of great originality, has here written a very curious book, a novel shorter than the fifty endnotes that supplement it. Goldbarth claims that these notes may be read with the novel, after the novel, or simply ignored. The range of material in these notes comprehends considerations of Herman Melville and George Eliot to comic books and supermarket tabloids, and suggests a resemblance to Nabokovs Pale Fire. The novel itself is a very human consideration of illness, death, honesty and reconciliation. Pieces of Payne challenges the reader but provides rewards and will repay repeated rereadings.
This book is from Graywolfs valuable Rediscovery series. Originally published in 1987, this edition has an Afterword that brings the book up to date. Conrad has brought very considerable skills and knowledge to the subject of opera and has arranged it expertly. He explains the appeal of opera as an art form that involves humanity at its extremes, men and women whose libidos run wild without the constraints of the inner censor. The history of opera, considered first as a succession of types and then as creations by individual composers, is a valuable study. But his consideration of performances embraces strong likes and dislikes. It allows him to use satire and ridicule to puncture the foolish and the pretentious. This is a book as valuable for its wit as for its knowledge and clarity.
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Sister Mariella Gable Prize Awarded each year by the Literary Arts Institute of the College of Saint Benedict to a Graywolf publication.