Even Olsen's most admiring fans will concede the structural limitations of this book which confronts, directly and...

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SILENCES

Even Olsen's most admiring fans will concede the structural limitations of this book which confronts, directly and higgledy-piggledy, the writer's dilemma, the relationship of individual circumstance to the creation of literature. Her personal experience (for years, because of everyday exigencies, ""the simplest circumstances for creation did not exist"") is more than merely representative: it colors her outlook and informs her work. Here the thematic preoccupation with Silences (writing opportunities deferred or eroded entirely) appears in two talks and a book foreword, intense, mannered pieces which fully suggest the extent of her concern: largely for women, whose efforts have most often been diverted, but essentially for anyone encountering unjust obstacles--Hardy and Melville are among those singled out. ""One Out of Twelve"" rightly questions the underrepresentation of women writers in college literature courses and anthologies, a condition happily somewhat improved since her 1971 MLA speech. And the longish foreword to a reprint of Rebecca Harding Davis' 1861 Life in the Iron Mills, a fair-minded biography, further testifies to her deep sympathy and identification with writers who portray the dignity of simple lives and endure their own lost possibilities (""the leeching of belief, of will, the damaging of capacity""). The rest of the book--the larger part--consists of the notes, jottings, and sources for the quotations and thoughts in the three more finished pieces; necessarily patchy and repetitious, they may interest the devoted as a partial record of her reading (V. Woolf seems to lead the list) but they add little overall. An unbalanced work, but the shaped writings merit attention.

Pub Date: July 24, 1978

ISBN: 1558614400

Page Count: -

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1978