ON DIALOGUE by Robert Grudin


An Essay in Free Thought
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 A professor's casual, more or less philosophical ruminations on the liberating function of dialogue. This volume of Grudin's philosophical essays follows Time and the Art of Living (1988) and The Grace of Great Things (1990). The tone of this collection is conversational, and its intention is vague. Perhaps it aims, as the publisher opines, to reveal ``how the use of dialogue can open the door to greater creativity.'' It often has the feel of a self-help book, as when Grudin (Literature and Humanities/Univ. of Oregon) talks about dialogue between lovers. But his interdisciplinary ambitions are much larger. He explains how dialogue can fix the former Soviet Union; how it can renew the university; how it makes science work; how it is an intrinsic element of American freedom; how it functions in literature; how it can heal the breach between nature and modern consciousness. Though the amiable Grudin is often entertaining and imaginative, he conceives of dialogue in an impossibly amorphous way. Dialogue has a long tradition in philosophical thinking, but Grudin does not bother to position himself within that tradition. In addition there is much preening: he likes to tell the reader about his sabbaticals to prestigious universities, trips to interesting places, dealings and with big publishers. And what will happen when the world at last cottons on to the Grudin dialogics (which he finds already at work in environmentalism)? ``The mental landscape of Western intellectuals will be much less alienated, much closer to the vision of a mystic and intuitive confidence of a child. Community and engagement will become intellectual rallying cries, and the European prophets of alienation and absurdity will leave the bookstore shelves to join the Chartists and Prohibitionists in underground library repositories. There will be just as many loonies and dilettantes as ever, but everybody will be happier.'' Nostradamus in a tweed jack and a Volvo.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-77187-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996