More often, however, the pairings are only obfuscatory and puzzling; the collection’s scattered points of interest cannot...

TIME TIDINGS

GREETING THE 21ST CENTURY

Oddly surprised and invigorated by the discovery that “no anthology had focused on the theme of time in poetry,” Duffy has attempted to shore up the gap, gathering a collection of poems by 50 contemporary poets (English, Irish and Scottish), in which each was invited to submit his own favorite poem on the topic. This gives us 100 poems altogether, a reassuringly round number for what is, in fact, a very uneven collection. Such a result might have been predicted by the editor. The size of the abstraction is obviously too large: “Ever the Everest among concepts,” was how Merrill measured it in his poem “Time.” Here, the selected poems are so eclectic in their treatment of the theme that the juxtapositions, instead of stimulating, merely bewilder. Elegies and laments predominate, but they are made to cohabit with the eerie enthusiasms of Lawrence’s “New Year’s Night” and the low wit of John Agard’s “How Laughter Made the Clock Smile.” In her introduction Duffy seems resigned to the thought that her hodge-podge will not bear the stamp of any presiding intelligence, but believes this flaw more than compensated for by “the curiously catalytic process by which a poet’s choice would often reveal something new or concealed about their own work.” This is an interesting strategy if the editor can rely on the reader’s familiarity with each of the poet’s œuvre, but since most of these poets are not widely read—especially not on these shores—the gambit founders. For example, the relationship between Henry Graham’s “Mal” and his chosen poem (Rimbaud’s “Barbare”) is foggy at best. What Rimbaud’s poem has to do with Time is cloudier still. There are the occasional minor successes. To read Yeats’ hermetic quatrain “There” after the dizzying colloquialisms of Muldoon’s “As” gives the former poem a new jauntiness and unsuspected lilt.

More often, however, the pairings are only obfuscatory and puzzling; the collection’s scattered points of interest cannot redeem its wider failures.

Pub Date: April 17, 2000

ISBN: 0-85646-313-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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