RIDERS ON THE EARTH by Archibald MacLeish


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Archibald MacLeish has here collected eighteen essays written during the late Sixties and early Seventies. Six are political, six autobiographical, and six personal sketches--of Ezra Pound, Gerald Murphy, Carl Sandburg, the Nook Farm Group in Hartford, Mark Van Doren, and Robert Frost. This selection does not entirely limit, but clearly defines his literary interests. And the title reflects his present point of view. Perhaps after seeing the earth from space as a small blue bubble, perhaps after Watergate and Vietnam, and after Saul Bellow's 1976 Nobel speech urging writers to return from ""the peripheries""--perhaps there is a shadow of a hope that we may be able to redirect ourselves and retrieve our ancient values: revolution as Jeffersonian, not Marxist, science as servant not master, and life once again connected solidly to un-bulldozed land. MacLeish writing on politics tends to such phrases as ""the indifference of the Marxist bureaucracies as well as the bureaucratic indifference of the industrial West."" He is better when he is personal. He puts the Pound case in a new light when he deplores the insanity defense; he rescues the painter Gerald Murphy from the stereotype of a Scott Fitzgerald playboy. He is best in his reminiscences. On playing football at Yale (class of 1915) for instance: ""a man could survive at a hundred and sixty-five pounds if he kept moving."" Team spirit is what MacLeish admires, on the playing field or on the planet. This underlies his current conceptions and allows him, even now, to find possibilities for optimism in today's world.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1978
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin