PAINTED PARAGRAPHS by Donald Newlove

PAINTED PARAGRAPHS

Inspired Description for Writers and Readers

KIRKUS REVIEW

 In the second volume of an intended trilogy about writing, novelist/memoirist (and longtime Kirkus reviewer) Newlove (Curranne Trueheart, 1986, etc.) infuses readers with a sense of the power that real feeling, honestly observed, brings to great writing. Newlove sings and celebrates, and sometimes playfully deflates, gorgeous passages of description from Hemingway, Bunyan, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Chandler, Mailer, Whitman, and many others. By describing how a particular passage strikes him--sometimes in the back muscles, sometimes straight through the heart--Newlove shows that it's earthy feeling rather than any superhuman feat of intellect or froth of words that carves out the indelible ``spiritual landscape'' of a Tolstoy or Shakespeare. Riffing on one classic passage after another, bubbling over with an infectious love of language, Newlove demonstrates how vision and moral force in literature flow always from some true perception of the value of life: Truth must come from ``a man's grip on life.'' Hence we taste the brine that Hemingway tastes in the oysters he gobbles in Paris; we share a luscious, greedy snack of ham with Thomas Wolfe; we embrace the world of the body with Whitman; we drink in horror at the hands of Conrad. We even sample the fall and rise of Newlove himself as ``Drunkspeare,'' an alcoholic writer step-by-step restored to his exuberant senses. In some of his most useful passages, Newlove jokes about greats like ``Wild Bill'' Shakespeare so that we may see ``the simplicity, almost raggedness of his lines.'' Newlove freely abridges Hemingway, and prunes Conrad's jungle, but, strangely, he touches not a word in Mailer's Ancient Evenings--seeing ``brilliancies everywhere--and not a stuffed bird among them.'' Here, as in First Paragraphs (1992), the self-styled ``Dr. Don'' gives transfusions of the living spirit ``that breathes out of the writer's breast.''

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8050-2978-8
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993




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