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by Nicholas Delbanco

Pub Date: March 10th, 1969
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Consider Sappho, a middle-aged, Bollingen-winning "poetess" doodling here about herself and five others (a painter, a musician, etc.), none of whom you can differentiate and certainly not by their sex and all of whom are "interchangeable, symbolic and not substantive." Consider the novel-"In the structured novel there is always clarity, a page that marks peripetea, than anagnorisis: yet the terms are foreign. . . ." Indeed, clogged with formidable foreign words, "vocalics," allusions, alliterations, and wordplay ("I sink and therefore am"). Mr. Delbanco's assault upon the reader considers him not and is for those (if any) who read his second novel (not his first) Grasse 3/23/66 of 1968. Alternating with the erotic permutations of his sestet, are, on every other page, grave rubbings and headstone readings from the cemetery on this island (Martha's Vineyard) and entries from some medical encyclopedia ("The optic nerves and chiasma: the neighborhood of the cerebral ventricles, and the subpial region of the spinal cord are favorite sites"). . . . Consider-conclude-"So much of our art form now is fraud" or at any rate a lyrical talent misapplied. Anomie in Arcady.