In this definitive collection of short nonfiction essays by Michaels (1933-2003), author of Sylvia and The Men's Club, we find two smaller collections of essays--critical and biographical. Michaels analyzes story parts and the origins of the word relationship and its deeper meaning in literature; he pays tribute to an anonymous author, all the while philosophizing and quoting Sartre, Genet, Plato, Joyce, Montaigne, and the Bible. The author writes of being the son of Jewish Polish immigrants, learning English from a neighbor, and growing up in New York City, and he describes his time spent in Michigan, California, and France, among other places. Although the literary references can be overwhelming, there is no arguing that Michaels is an intelligent author, philosopher, and critic of popular culture. Michaels explains that we write about ourselves to learn about ourselves, and he acknowledges that trying to write nonfiction is an act of insanity. This collection, edited by Michaels's widow, is recommended for academic and larger public libraries.--David L. Reynolds, Cleveland P.L.[Page 72]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
These essays, spare and elegant as Michaels alights on a range of subjects, follow the late writer's own precept: "I think we name ourselves, more or less, whenever we write, and thus tend always to write about ourselves." This pungent collection, by a quizzical New York Jew who never quite assimilated, divides into two sections: critical essays and autobiographical essays. Many of these works first appeared in the Threepenny Review, among other publications. The first part includes a brilliant essay "On Love" and another on "Having Trouble with My Relationship." The latter breezily covers figures as diverse as Pope, Larkin, Heidegger and Kafka. Other figures and subjects blowing through these pages include Bellow, Nabokov, Kubrick, Edward Hopper, Wallace Stevens Rita Hayworth, and how to watch a movie. The best and most penetrating essays come in the second section, as Michaels gives a wincing account of family bedtime stories--on pogroms--a happier set of epiphanies on his father, a wise Yiddish-speaking barber; and yet another describing fish-out-of-water experiences at Berkeley. All told, these are soul-baring occasional pieces by a writer's writer and a master stylist. (July)[Page 41]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.