A PLACE THAT'S KNOWN by Michael Pearson


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 After Imagined Places (1991), a well-honed series of essays contrasting literary landmarks such as Frost's Vermont and Hemingway's Key West with their social reality today, Pearson (English/Old Dominion) adds to his travels a personal theme--his search for his father and relationship with his son--in a medley of styles and forms. The direction and coherence here are difficult to establish. Some essays are deeply personal, with few literary allusions: Pearson's boyhood in a Bronx parochial school; his summers in Maine; a chapter on San Francisco (where Pearson meets his literary mentor, discovering an older balding man in a snug green suit who has become a union rep); a conclusion called ``The Playground'' that explores basketball as game and metaphor; more on father and son; and a chapter on La Grange, Georgia, where Pearson taught for six years, leading to some unfortunate generalizations about the South. The writer visits a Navajo reservation in ``New Mexico/Arizona,'' and there he contemplates Tony Hillerman's Navajo mystery novels, which he contrasts with the real Indians, including a Navajo police officer. Similarly, he visits the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a socially and geographically isolated area that John McPhee evoked in his book The Pine Barrens. On his trip to ``England/Ireland'' to find his grandfather, he relates the history of the Celts, of Chaucer, and of Shakespeare, sounding more the tour guide than a writer with a purpose in doing all of this. His eye for irony survives, however, although he still has lapses in his imagery, describing a face as being as wrinkled as a ``New Mexican arroyo.'' Pearson is best when, as in his first collection, he works under limitations, when his sharp perception is brought to bear on well-defined spaces and themes. But even this long ramble with a garrulous stranger has its charm.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-87805-672-6
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1994


NonfictionDREAMING OF COLUMBUS by Michael Pearson
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NonfictionIMAGINED PLACES by Michael Pearson
by Michael Pearson