A LONG THE RIVERRUN: Selected Essays by Richard Ellmann
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A LONG THE RIVERRUN: Selected Essays

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In addition to writing two of the finest literary biographies of the past three decades (James Joyce, 1959, and Oscar Wilde, 1987), Ellmann (d. 1987) produced over the years a series of sensitively perceived and written essays. Here are 18, dealing with such subjects as Henry James, Pound and Yeats, 1890's decadence, and Freud and the biographer's art. In all his work, Ellmann had the happy ability to combine extraordinary erudition with a simplicity of style that guides his reader through the subtleties of his thought with deceptive ease. As an added bonus, he enjoyed a talent for witty aphorism. Ellmann's rare gifts are delightfully evident in this new collection. While each of these short pieces can be read with pleasure and profit, it is perhaps the section on ""Freud and Literary Biography"" that will create the greatest impression today. With debate raging about what Joyce Carol Oates recently called ""pathography,"" Ellmann's analysis of the uses of psychological insights in evaluating the lives and works of writers past and present is balanced and convincing. The pertinence of his position is, of course, validated by Ellmann's own work. In this essay, the reader is gently instructed in biographical methods by a master of the genre. Elsewhere, too, Ellmann is equally astute, as in his delineation of Henry James' fears of and attraction to the aesthetic movement of the 1890's. Ellmann's insights strike the reader with the force of truth. A collection that should be on the shelves of everyone interested in the writer's craft.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1989
Publisher: Knopf