A Love of Reading, The Second Collection: More Reviews of by Robert Adams

By Robert Adams

Fourteen excellent new stories from the writer of A Love of Reading. Passionate, proposal frightening, and witty.

A Love of interpreting, the second one Collection comprises 14 new reports of contemporary classics from a discriminating, hugely enjoyable, and prodigiously well-read guide.

In a stimulating choice, starting from Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace to Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, and from Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain to Sheri Holman’s The gown Lodger, renowned literary critic Robert Adams skilfully interweaves a nimble and enlightening dialogue of plot, subject matter, and characterization with attention-grabbing old, biographical, and literary context. Adams is many times attracted to the spectacle of less-than-perfect people making their means in a antagonistic international, and hence his experiences are a highly pleasant mixture of wealthy pathos and ample humour. within the phrases of the Calgary Herald, they're “a bibliophile’s dream.”

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Just so, in Lowell’s version of The Oresteia of Aeschylus (1978) the vengeful Furies who incite violence are described by Apollo as ‘monsters fed on anarchy and boredom’ (Or 117), while Prometheus Bound (1969), Lowell’s other re-rendering of Aeschylus, dwells upon ‘the torment of idleness’ (PB 7) and describes Prometheus suffering the vengeance of a divine force at once ‘empty’ and ‘tireless’ (47). His punisher Zeus, ‘walled in by his indifference’ (61), is imagined sitting ‘in an armory of power, all force at his fingertips’, the agent of a violent energy from which he is oddly dissociated: ‘he himself… he is not powerful’ (43).

The state, if we could see behind the wall, is woven of perishable vegetation. Stalin? What shot him clawing up the tree of power – millions plowed under with the crops they grew, his intimates dying like the spider-bridegroom? The large stomach could only chew success. What raised him was an unusual lust to break the icon, joke cruelly, seriously, and be himself. (LCP 540) There is a troubling briskness to this account of Stalin’s motivations. 17 More unsettling still are Lowell’s final two words: although it would be presumptuous to infer that he sought to excuse ShadesofAuthority text:Royal 10/9/07 13:58 Page 35 the poet and the tyrant 35 Stalin’s acts of oppression and brutality on the grounds that the dictator was simply trying to ‘be himself’, nonetheless the ‘frightening blank’ produced by the poem’s starkly reductive closing phrase lends weight to the forceful objections of Von Hallberg: ‘This is an outrageous poem.

21 The implied connection between the Russian autocrat and the figure of the poet, in fact, dates back to the Life Studies elegy ‘To Delmore Schwartz’, in which Stalin’s ‘cerebral hemorrhages’ are (confusingly) aligned with the ‘despondency and madness’ which Wordsworth predicted for poets in their later life (LCP 157–58); the link is reinforced in the History volume when, in the poem ‘Student’, Stalin is described as ‘something of an artist’ (549) – perhaps a reference to the fact that he dabbled in the craft of poetry before turning his attention to statecraft.

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