READING RILKE

REFLECTIONS ON THE PROBLEMS OF TRANSLATION

The American novelist probes the Austrian’s metaphysical poetry with exceptional clarity of mind, verbal grace, and shrewd skepticism. Apart from his five works of fiction, Gass has published five books of literary and philosophical essays (Finding a Form, 1996, etc.). By now there can be no doubt that he’s one of our foremost public critics of literature. This new book—dedicated entirely to Rilke and focusing special, superbly concentrated attention on the Duino Elegies—has the effect of a declaration of love. It comes as no surprise: readers of Gass know him to be in love with language; and Rilke, as Gass presents him, is the century’s supreme master of verbal dance. But Gass is also a professor of philosophy at Washington University and not much inclined to the kind of gushy imprecision that Rilke’s poetry has sometimes evoked in admirers. Gass may love Rilke’s poetry, but he also presses it with hard-nosed questions and demands. The result is as impressive as it is engrossing. He explores problems of translation in a workmanlike way. His German is evidently flawless, and his commentaries on the many translations of the Elegies are acerbic, generous, and revealing. In addition, he concludes the book with his own translations of these very difficult poems. Gass’s are certainly among the best renditions of Rilke into English. His gift for metaphor and his uncanny ability to mimic Rilke’s cadences (very different from his own) are striking. But perhaps most satisfying of all is Gass’s thought about poetry itself as an autonomous way of knowing the world. Rilke’s poetry “sets the mind free of the world. Free to see and feel afresh the very world it’s been freed from.” A book not only for people interested in Rilke or Gass, but for anyone who takes poetry seriously.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-40312-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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