Empty of everything but platitudes and apocrypha, all twenty sketches distort or distill or dilute the facts and emerge...

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FAMOUS NEW ENGLAND AUTHORS

Empty of everything but platitudes and apocrypha, all twenty sketches distort or distill or dilute the facts and emerge variously as side-views, silhouettes, and caricatures. The only source identified is Van Wyck Brooks' The Flowering of New England; whatever the working bibliography, however, the selection of material reveals no discernment, no sense of priorities. Hawthorne's short stories are virtually unmentioned, though a typical non sequitur announces that with Melville he ""liked to lie in the barn on the hay discussing time and eternity."" Thoreau might never have written ""Civil Disobedience"" or even advanced the concept: instead, and erroneously -- ""There was plenty of acid in his composition. He passed one night in jail for refusing to pay his poll tax."" As for literary criticism: ""Bryant's poetry does not contain much original thought and no humor or sense of the contemporary scene. His poems are solemn and not especially musical. . . but his art. . . had an exalted quality."" And while ""Thanatopsis"" is declared here to be his ""supreme achievement"" whose ""last nine lines should always be remembered,"" it is the less representative ""To the Fringed Gentian"" which is cited as a sample of his work; of Whittier's work, ""it must be said that he was a true poet."" Emerson's life is next to unrecognizable for the facile confounding of cause-effect relationships, which problem appears throughout the book compounded by poor paragraphing and peculiar use of conjunctions. Not to mention the use of odd words -- Harriet Beecher Stowe's son Freddy became ""an inebriate,"" Emerson's sister ""was a posthumous child"" of his father, Emerson's brother was ""affected mentally, so the mother left him on a farm."" See the Hilda White study (below) for one sturdier choice.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 1970

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dodd, Mead

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1970