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It's a little hard to understand what's so ""unprecedented"" about Nancy Hale's so-called ""personal view of New England"". We'll state right off, of course, that it's a beautiful, bulging anthology, a rainbow-right selection of three centuries of an area of Americana probably more fascinating and fruitful than any other, ranging as it can and does from William Bradford and Cotton Mather to Hawthorne and Longfellow, Holmes and the James brothers, Robert Lowell and JFK. But Miss Hale's introduction and brief prefaces are, in a sense, a bit baffling, for it seems to be the well-known novelist's fancy that because her ancestry includes, among others, Nathan Hale, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Edward Everett Hale, and because she grew up surrounded by ""memories"", the Revolution appears to be almost a ""family affair"". Emerson had been a family friend- and thereby her selections- all parts of childhood associations- presuppose a sort of existential exploration or perhaps a Jungian pursuit- actually she calls it a ""dual background of myth and the revision of myth"". Now all that would be fine if what we had here was Miss Hale writing about the famous or obscure people and periods which have so influenced her, instead of just editing the specimens from them or about them. True, about half of the prose and poetry pieces are very personal, even idiosyncratic, choices, but that's true of most anthologies. However, space is short and the carping over-long. Suffice to say, whatever the ""format"", New England Discovery is a beautiful book, a rewarding regional excursion, a pleasure for all Upper East partisans.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1963
Publisher: Coward-McCann