PURSUIT OF HONOR by L. E. Sissman

PURSUIT OF HONOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

When S. J. Perelman, departing for England, was asked to comment on contemporary writers he singled out L. E. Sissman as the one poet whose work he could still read with interest. He particularly liked a poem where Sissman foresees his death in a mental institution. Perelman's encomium, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt, as must the image he conjures of a deranged soul, for Sissman, besides being Perelman's colleague at the New Yorker, is a wry, dry, matter-of-fact melancholic who celebrates the ironies of middle age, the rumble of the metropolitan scene, and New England memories with a bittersweet equanimity, as well as a touch of Perelmanian humor -- all of which can only make him appear eminently sane in these sorry days. Sissman is very strong on class (upper middle), character (brow-beaten but honorable), and circumstance (the accumulation of books, credit cards, and affairs, from Harvard to the East Side). His characteristic posture is that of an animal in harness, moving restively backward or sidewise: he balks, but endures. Technically, he is quite accomplished, usually presenting more or less dramatic monologues, the off-centered couplets often strikingly capturing the exact tone of people and places, frequently reminiscent of' moments in Cheerer and Salinger and O'Hara, especially in the emphases on clothing, brand names, and the accompanying nuances of disillusionment or nostalgia. It is excellent urban verse, heightened by pastoral contrasts, witty and poignant by turns.

Publisher: Little, Brown--A.M.P.