SAMUEL BECKETT'S WAKE AND OTHER UNCOLLECTED PROSE by Edward Dahlberg

SAMUEL BECKETT'S WAKE AND OTHER UNCOLLECTED PROSE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Essays, long and short reviews, prefaces, and short fiction by novelist manqu‚ Dahlberg (Bottom Dogs)--who abandoned fiction, along with his early naturalistic mode, and for 30 years dug a cavernous underground reputation as a gloomy, majestic, largely unread prose stylist focused on parable and the essay (e.g., The Flea of Sodom, The Sorrows of Priapus, etc). The present book gathers all of the shorter pieces that were left out of or written after his last two collections and compromises Dahlberg's reportage, impressionistic essays, parody, travel pieces, personal memoirs, historical studies, and often black bookreviews of, to him, sick or unhealthy modern writers (Mary McCarthy, Wolfe, Faulkner, Hemingway). Dahlberg looks ever for ""the healing word"" from those he reads. In his grand scale (here engrained onto tiny essays), great body of work, and lack of recognition, he may be compared to fellow American Charles Ives, though he does not have that composer's soaring wildness. His admirers call up C‚zanne, Melville, Kafka, and Baudelaire, though his sometimes archaic diction and lustrous line is closest perhaps to Sir Thomas Browne's. Dahlberg everywhere seeks uplift and yet sounds forth chords in G-minor (""There is no budding lemon-branch fragrance in the American naturalistic novelists. . .""). At times his irony is grimly refreshing: "". . .there is more profit in canonized dust than in living flesh. Those who praise Whitman, Poe, Melville, James, and Emily Dickinson are promoting the same oblivion for the writer today that the author in the nineteenth century had""; "". . .he who resolves to be an honest author takes the vow of poverty."" His best piece herein is a brief but triumphant parody of Samuel Beckett, which finds Dahlberg in fullest flower. Caviar to the general.

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 1989
Publisher: Dalkey Archive