KEEPING LITERARY COMPANY by Jerome Klinkowitz

KEEPING LITERARY COMPANY

Working with Writers Since the Sixties

KIRKUS REVIEW

Memoirs of an academic lucky enough to know the authors he teaches as contemporaries. Although Klinkowitz (English/Univ. of Northern Iowa) has written surveys of American fiction and edited collections on baseball and WWII RAF pilots, his academic specialty is contemporary experimental writing—at least, what was contemporary in the 1960s. Among his credits as an editor is a Vonnegut bestseller, Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons, a collection of early stories and essays (Vonnegut vetoed the proposed original title: —Rare Vonnegut sounds so utterly posthumous,— murmured the novelist). Vonnegut’s challenge to Klinkowitz as critic? —Vonnegut’s career made for a virtual checklist of noncanonicity—; his —work was just too new, too diverse, and too unorganized to allow any single critic’s view to function comprehensively.— Klinkowitz’s friendly relations with Vonnegut seem not especially intimate; his dealings with the mercurial Jerzy Kosinski underscore Kosinski’s distancing manipulation. Many of the book’s other scenes come across as softened episodes from the academic novels of Malcolm Bradbury: e.g., a drunk Ronald Sukenick propositioning every woman in a faculty party’s greeting line. In a smarting coda, Clarence Major, the only black writer in this white “SuperFiction” bunch, is portrayed as now keeping different literary company, writing more in the vein of realism, and deleting the ’60s from his vita. One anecdote sums up Klinkowitz’s experience of the writer-critic relationship: He was berated by Donald Barthelme for defending the inclusion of some also-rans of experimental fiction in his Literary Disruptions by claiming to have a .375 batting average in his table of contents. “You’re not the hitter,” Barthelme countered. “We’re the hitters. You’re the fielder, and you’re not going to get anywhere if you keep dropping every other ball.” Klinkowitz averages a little better than that here. A view of the passing literary parade from the porch of the ivory tower.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-7914-3723-X
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998




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