NEW DIRECTIONS 36 by J. with Peter Glassgold & Frederick R. Martin--Eds. Laughlin


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Sui generis now among commercial trade publishers, New Directions' annual roundup is just what this sort of non-textbook anthology ought to be: uneven--rough and smooth and something in between. In ND 36, rough predominates. Coleman Dowell has a silly childhood memoir written in his lately sturm-und-drang manner. Gerard Malanga and Gustaf Sobin offer tepid neo-Objectivist poems. And the stories of Sherril Jaffe, Peter Glassgold, and Linsey Abrams exhibit all the strained effects and self-seriousness of middling college-lit-mag fiction. Neither fish nor fowl are six poems by Allen Ginsberg about his father's death and a crafted tale by Paul West about the wartime survival of island-billeted Japanese soldiers after a hideous crocodile attack. Smooth runs primarily to three entries. A selection of Delmore Schwartz' verse journals is of indifferent quality as verse but does deliver fine, sharp 'critical opinions about writers such as Henry James and Emily Dickinson. Octavio Paz offers a lucid, foreigner's-eye view of William Carlos Williams, proving once again that Paz thinks seriously about almost everything worth thinking about. And perhaps best and strangest of all are fragments of letters by a young student of John Hawkes at Brown University, Paula Eigenfeld, who committeed suicide in 1976. Extraordinarily honest, not at all madmushed, with a truly plastic feel for words, and terribly, terribly sad, the letters sometimes sound like Rilke, and in their unaffectedness are like chisels to the rest of the anthology's teaspoons.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1978
Publisher: New Directions