The author of more than two dozen works of fiction (Entered From the Sun, 1990, etc.), biography (James Jones, 1984), criticism, poetry, and drama now turns his considerable powers to studied introspection.
Garrett (English/Univ. of Virginia) nearly, but not quite, comes up with an autobiography--an art form he describes as, at its best, "a cry for mercy concealed as a nonnegotiable demand for justice.'' That rings particularly true when the story has, as his does, a southern exposure, with its very diction and sensibility embedded in the War (the one between the states, of course). To be sure, there are narratives of other wars--in Europe, for example, or in the boxing ring. On occasion, the text, like a Broadway musical, bursts out of its mannered prose into creditable poetry and then lapses back into Garrett's wandering style-- "digression,'' he confesses, "being the essence of my style.'' Another badge of his method is his penchant for eschewing the ancient and elementary rule of usage that requires a noun and a verb to appear together in the same sentence. Garrett does have his prejudices when it comes to his craft. There are kind words for fellow denizens of Dixie (Shelby Foote and James Dickey) and bit of buckshot for the likes of John Irving, John Updike, and Robert Coover. One story seems to be in homage to Hemingway. As for himself, Garrett, ever on the high road, discovers "a strong and deep feeling that virtuous acts that lead to any kind of profit or reward or...any forms of conventional honor and respect are not so much beneath contempt as unworthy of serious attention.''
A cranky test, celebratory of the writer's art, to which some attention may be paid.