ODD MAN IN: And Other Essays

Michael Milburn, Author . Mid-List $16 (0p) ISBN 978-0-922811-54-0

In each of the quietly vocal, faintly narcissistic essays in this first collection, poet and teacher Milburn (Such Silence ) reworks his central theme: the importance of striving to be an individual in the elite culture from which he springs, one that, from prep school to Harvard, insists on splendid tradition and discourages deviation from the rule. Stoicism and melancholia characterize Milburn's written persona, yet he also strikes a note of advocacy and self-help as he repeatedly emphasizes the value of remaining true to oneself. In one essay Milburn describes how he tried antidepressants only to abandon them when he found they interfered with a more familiar, sorrowful creative self. Two other essays celebrate quirky friendships with outsiders: a gay friend dying of AIDS and unable to come out to his family, and a British ex-con who craves intellectual company. In the most novelistic of the essays, Milburn explores his family life: one piece treats his relationship with his demanding father, a high-powered lawyer, while another tells the story of how Milburn struggled to sustain a close relationship with his young son following divorce and relocation; Milburn blends numbed pragmatism with idealistic parental striving. In his writing on teaching literature, Milburn captures the naïveté and enthusiasm of his more underprivileged students' responses to words, rhythm and meaning, responses he sees as antithetical to the unspontaneous upper-middle-class knowingness to which he was born. Although his observations of his social class are hardly penetrating, Milburn's style of introspection is soulful and sincere and may attract other readers burdened with similar personal baggage. Agent, Susan Schulman. (May 15)

Reviewed on: 03/29/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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