Essays and Criticism
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An eclectic compilation from a prolific writer and poet.

The text is broken into three sections: autobiographical essays, some assorted pieces on the craft and history of writing, and a series of the author’s book reviews. The biographical sections are witty and, at times, touching. Major’s (Dirty Bird Blues, 1996, etc.) adolescent attempt at starting a literary journal is recapped in the opening piece, which displays the vibrant optimism of an aspiring writer and painter struggling to find a sense of artistic community in the culturally bankrupt South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. Unfortunately, this is one of the few high points. While direct and occasionally insightful, the remaining pieces (ranging from the description of a trip to a literary festival in Yugoslavia in the mid-1970s to the histories of a pair of literary journals that went bust during the Great Depression) show very little in terms of a common theme or purpose. From a discussion of William Faulkner’s Light in August to an annotated revision of an introduction to one of Major’s previous works to an unpublished introduction to an unpublished Claude McKay novel, this work has the feel of an appendix to an otherwise laudable career. The book reviews are solid and useful critiques of important works but, as with the rest of the content, they lack a consistent theme or vision outside of their common authorship.

Best for devoted fans of the author.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-56689-109-4
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2001


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