Selves at Risk

Ihab Hassan, Author University of Wisconsin Press $22.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-299-12370-3
Modern quest literature, in Hassan's view, covers both fiction and nonfiction, fusing adventure, travel and autobiography in a search for wholeness. The writing questers discussed in this scholarly yet highly accessible study include solitary pilgrim Annie Dillard, spiritual seeker Paul Zweig and cultural exile Paul Bowles, as well as Joan Didion, John McPhee, Norman Mailer and Saul Bellow. These writers take risks, confront death, test beliefs, embrace cultural differences. A polished stylist, Hassan, a University of Wisconsin professor of literature, traces the modern reinvention of the genre in Paul Theroux's sardonic travelogues, in Alex Haley's search for ancestral roots and in Peter Matthiessen's wanderings born of naturalist and anthropological curiosity. Matthiessen, to him, is the contemporary American writer whose work may best exemplify the quest themes of peril, self-at-risk, encounter with otherness and urgent spiritual pursuits. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/12/1989
Release date: 12/01/1989
Genre: Fiction
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