A Writer's America

Alfred Kazin, Author
Alfred Kazin, Author Knopf Publishing Group $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-394-57142-3
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Splicing a text by distinguished critic Kazin with scores of paintings, photographs and literary excerpts might seem the ideal way to illuminate American writers' changing relationship with nature and landscape. This eye-catching book is ingeniously conceived, well-produced and often sagacious, but the end results are mixed. Kazin frequently slips into the sort of facile prose one associates with TV documentaries (``Robinson Jeffers in Carmel saw life entirely as coastal landscape''). He forces into his panoramic narrative many writers (Joan Didion, Flannery O'Connor, Stephen Crane, etc.) who have seemingly little connection to his theme. Despite these flaws, his treatment of Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Steinbeck and others is solid. Paintings by Edward Hicks, Karl Bodmer, Frederic Remington, Winslow Homer and Childe Hassam lend new resonances to the literary works discussed, and the whole enterprise is set in a historical framework, from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello to the rise of megalopolis. (October)
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