THE PUSHCART PRIZE, IV: Best of The Small Presses, 1979-80 by Bill--Ed. Henderson

THE PUSHCART PRIZE, IV: Best of The Small Presses, 1979-80

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Not such great fruit on the Pushcart this year. The poetry--almost all of it cuteironic, domesticated, instantly shy--is a special disappointment; three good selections--Mona Van Duyn's ""Letter From a Father,"" Larry Leads' ""The Ownership of the Night,"" and John Updike's ""To Ed Sissman""--are the best of a tame, predictable lot. The prose selection manages a little bit more interest. Gerald Graft's dissection of radical aesthetics is a little diffuse but generally feisty and thought-provoking. Christine Schutt's ""Three Women""--a story of growing up as children of a mother in a sanitarium--is good and particular, as is James B. Hall's California-Inferno fantasy. Ellen Gilchrist's ""Rich"" is a solid, unapologetic melodrama. But the only two fiction blue-chips are a cutting from Manuel Puig's new novel and a Max Schott story, both available now in book form from commercial presses (Kiss of the Spider Woman, p. 150; Up Where I Used to Live, 1978, p. 1212). A sort of one-shot lethargy informs much of the rest, except for Ishmael Reed's freeswinging, petty, score-settling, and risk-taking polemic on the Naropa Institute and the new Establishments in American poetry. Obviously, Pushcart can't--and isn't expected to--score every time out. Still, its growing dependence on New Academic magazines like Antaeus, Georgia Review, Field, and Iowa Review is a disturbing development. Mainstream, to be sure, the Pushcart has become--but does that mean that it has to sail only with, not against, the current? More safe and centered acceptability here than excellence--and the Pushcart's own high standards demand a better, riper assortment than this.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
Publisher: Pushcart Press