NOW BLESS THYSELF by Elizabeth Sewell


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About ten years ago Elizabeth Sewell wrote a novel which had autobiographical fingerprints and this book which records an English poet's stay on an American university campus repeats an actual experience. Guessably the most fictional parts of the book are the beginning and the end when a sudden and unexpected flare of violence preface and conclude the nameless narrator's year at Auber, as a poet in residence. Once there she has a certain chosen circle: Pete and Sara, Ray Antonelli and Joe Kierney, admiring members of a poetry discussion group she inaugurates; also a wise Priest (this is a Catholic school and there is a strong imprint throughout) and a Professor Rinaldo, the university's one great man, a former Communist. While this is something less than a novel, it is an airing of views and an audit of values in a spirit of liberal inquiry which ranges from political and theological concepts of freedom to the pursuit of excellence and its debasement in an admass culture, to the new paganism (sex), to the suppressive forces operating in our time and on our intellectual fronts, etc., etc. There is a sensitivity to impressions and images as well as ideas, all within an insubstantial frame of reference in which both the anonymous first person and those she meets remain indistinct.

Publisher: Doubleday