ALIENATION: The Intellectual Climate of our Times by Gerald- Ed. Sykes

ALIENATION: The Intellectual Climate of our Times

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As the convolvulous throws out its tendrils wherever it finds a convenient post or rake"" (Proust), so editor Sykes does (for the most part, anyway) in a mammoth two-volume collection of literary extracts, past and present, programmatically showing the cultural climate, i.e. alienation. Once a highbrow Hegelian, later Marxian, formulation, now a deep-thinking middlebrow cliche, the term certifies our estrangement from nature, society and the self. Skyes pastes up his specimens (his prefaces being little more than cue-ins) four ways: Victims (the currently maladjusted or iconclastic- sexually, psychologically, socio-politically); Perspectives (the historical forerunners); Dialogues (the debate of values: dehumanization, hermeticism, kitsch, classicism, mythmaking): finally Survival (the identity question, the fragmentation healers). Sykes on the project: ""If Book 1 is a kind of Inferno, and Books 2 and 3 a kind of Purgatorio, Book 4 will come as close to resembling a Paradiso as can be expected...This does not mean that those who appear in it are saints, or those who appear out of it are not."" Appearances are deceiving, choices subjective. Among the chosen, those most apt- Mailer, Genet, James, Ortega, Beckett, Kafka, Rilke, Melville, Buber, Jung, Whitened, Unamuno- are all represented by well-known offerings. Others are simply curious (if Plato or St. John, why not Job?; if Whitman, why not Faulkner?), or a waste or wasted (e.g. Kunitz, Price, Rexroth, Anderson, Gregory, Cavafy, Auden, Yeats). Of course, genius abounds, ergo magnitude, but overall subtlety and/or elicity of selection to the thesis does not.

Publisher: Braziller