THE WALK OF THE CONSCIOUS ANTS by Taylor Morris

THE WALK OF THE CONSCIOUS ANTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Utterly faute de mieux, Morris, a professor subsidized by the Ford Foundation, takes his spring semester class for a walk from the Franklin Pierce campus in New Hampshire to Nova Scotia. Though his rationale is to ""lessen the gap between knowing and understanding,"" this diaristic account of the trip fails to indicate that anyone came to know or understand much of anything. The ""conscious ants"" were chiefly conscious, by Morris' account, of the state of their feet and, to be sure, of their surroundings, both pastoral and Middle American. They were commonly taken for hippies, peace-marchers, or both; Morris says that if the hostile New Englanders had become acquainted with the students they would have loved them -- but the whole trip was structured to preclude that possibility, and with few exceptions the group's encounters were limited to watchdogs, the police, and tent-rope cutters (without whom the chronicle would be even duller). Morris epitomizes the defeated academic who fails to qualify his students' anti-intellectualism or his own. He licks his chops at the prospect of strife within the group, but interpersonal dynamics, hostile or otherwise, seem to have remained minimal. The walkers' imprecations against truck drivers and townies, if understandable, become not only tiresome but offensive. The wanderfest sensibilities remain at the level of ""The overwhelming with-it feeling. And the futility of words."" Indeed Morris' comment that ""Better basket-weaving than casket-weaving,"" seems to sum up his alternatives: dropping out into the youth culture or remaining a stultified cog.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1972
Publisher: Knopf