INNOCENT BYSTANDER: Scene from the '70's by L. E. Sissman

INNOCENT BYSTANDER: Scene from the '70's

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L. E. Sissman, who writes the column for the Atlantic and whose poems (some are included here) appear in The New Yorker where he also reviews books, has great common sense and charm--even if these qualities which he possesses to such a marked degree do not deserve such bleached words. Updike, who contributes an Introduction, of course says it better: ""a sensible, decent man: that is the voice."" This congeries of pieces ranges with welcome variety over anything from being a quiz kid as a child to the '40's, which in spite of the war, seemed happy compared to the ""shriveled institutions, shattered credibilities"" to follow; from some ""quare fellows"" to the cities where ""humanity"" has been ""cruelly superseded""; from the old Farmer's Almanac to his own high-and-fair-minded canon of reviewing books; from pieces on Waugh, the magisterial Edmund Wilson, to Auden whose ""stern, minatory figure"" influenced and strengthened his poetry; assorted ""Curmudgeonations,"" be they a ""Middle-Aged Declaration of Independence"" in a youth-assaulted world, or new publications, like People (dreadful) or television (""indescribably terrible"") or Nixon (""Will you please secrete him in some place""). They are offset by his admirations--for dogs, for handcrafted objects and old houses, for the seasons of the year. There are two pieces on Hodgkin's Disease which he contracted ten years ago, which accelerated his appreciation and activities, occasioned great physical pain, and finally now (with a new treatment ushered in in 1969) seems to have been permanently arrested--a reprieve not only for Mr. Sissman but his many admirers. Occasional reading which is graceful, tempered, pleasurable.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Vanguard