Across an Inland Sea: Writing in Place from Buffalo to Berli
Though Howe takes readers from Buffalo, N.Y., to Paris and from Oklahoma to Chartres, Berlin and Columbus, Ohio, in these elegant essays, his is not a travelogue in the traditional sense, but rather a deeply felt, meditative exploration of the""power that places have over us."" A medievalist and professor of English at UC Berkeley, Howe reveals a gift for capturing the modern-day pilgrimage.""Journey, story and metaphor alike,"" he writes,""draw from the same need: to move from point to point in the hope of discovery."" Howe's discoveries take the form of little epiphanies--about the way to see a city with fresh eyes, about the writing about place and memory--and are the stops along the way that he meticulously relates to his readers, so that, in the end, his journey becomes his reward. Howe's references are often literary--Kafka, Roland Barthes, Flaubert--but his accounts are clear and thoughtful, and his wit helps make his narrative work accessible. His opening chapter about his family's--and his own--history in and relationship to Buffalo during its recent decline is stunning in its breadth of understanding and melancholy, while his elegy to Columbus's High Street reveals a striking depth of feeling for a main drag marked by fast food chains and ethnic restaurants, student hang-outs and underused parks. This graceful volume will be especially meaningful to writers, but it should appeal to anyone who muses about authenticity in a place or people. 6 halftones.