PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS OF PORTUGAL by Donald Hall

PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS OF PORTUGAL

Prose Pieces

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Gathering fugitive essays, published for the most part over the past ten years, Hall (Life Work, 1993, etc.) constructs a model miscellany. To introduce readers to his preoccupations, Hall opens with a long investigation of the baseball poem ``Casey at the Bat'' and follows with a short paean to trees. He treats poetry, of course, and sport, most often baseball; also history, whether ancient, national, local, or natural. New England's peculiar culture and unique landscape have a particular hold on his imagination. After an intriguing ``tour of the less-read books of Henry Adams,'' Hall considers small-town New Hampshire in a trio of short essays that delicately chart the passage into history of the grammar schools, parlors, and graveyards that formed the horizons of his childhood. With a memoir of the eccentric New England author Robert Francis, Hall segues into a section on poetry. Here he places astute treatments of Marvell, E.A. Robinson, and James Wright, as well as a stirring defense of public funding for the arts. Other pieces include a moving account of how Hall's recent illness has influenced his attitude toward reading. At this point returns diminish somewhat: A piece from the early 1960s on sculptor Henry Moore feels out of place, while profiles of Boston Celtic fixtures Bob Cousy and Red Auerbach--and even an account of meeting Red Sox World Series hero Carlton Fisk--lack verve. But Hall reestablishes his indomitable voice in a concluding quartet of essays, moving from recollections of the magical baseball summer of 1941, through a parable about country stores and a wry discussion of rural real estate, to a fascinating childhood memory of how a Hollywood melodrama about the Spanish Civil War led him to renounce war play. ``I take sentences apart, and put them together again,'' goes Hall's concluding clause here. So he does--and who does it better?

Pub Date: April 30th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8070-6202-2
Page count: 286pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995




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