That Red Wheelbarrow: Selected Literary Essays

Robert Coles, Author
Robert Coles, Author University of Iowa Press $22.5 (352p) ISBN 978-0-87745-208-9
Reviewed on: 11/28/1989
Release date: 12/01/1989
As a literary critic, Harvard psychiatry professor Coles tends to be rhetorical and preachy, but his most insightful essays give voice to the tacit moral and political dimensions embodied in writers' visions. Among the wordsmiths he most admires are William Carlos Williams, Flannery O'Connor and James Agee; all three had an anti-intellectual streak, a phenomenon Coles ( The Moral Life of Children ) analyzes in the concluding essay of this smorgasbord. He also discusses Thomas Hardy as a populist, Knut Hamsun as uncompromising outsider, Walker Percy as an existentialist, Dickens as a moral visionary who looked into the abyss of capitalist democracy, as well as Tillie Olsen, Muriel Rukeyser, Orwell, Kafka, Kosinski, Salinger and others. By treating diverse writers such as Wright Morris, O'Connor and Shirley Ann Grau as regionalists, he shows how they transcend locale to touch upon universal themes. (Nov.)
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