Across an Inland Sea: Writing in Place from Buffalo to Berli

Nicholas Howe, Author
Nicholas Howe, Author Princeton University Press $35 (224p) ISBN 978-0-691-11365-4
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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.
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