The Needle’s Eye: Passing Through Youth

Fanny Howe. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-555-97756-6
Howe (Second Childhood: Poems) draws on over four decades as an acclaimed poet and fiction writer to seamlessly braid lyric and essayistic modes in her third nonfiction collection, a meditation on the pressures and formative friendships of youth. Without positing explicit correlations, Howe reprises several familiar tales of young people moved to action—variously compassionate or violent—by their radical faith, including Francis of Assisi, Brigid of Ireland, Simone Weil, and more recently, the Tsarnaev brothers behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Citing an Uzbek folktale in which two teenage boys set off on adventures together, seeking “to transcend and escape the ugly fate of adults,” Howe affirms that this story “could be told in any culture; and has been.” Moving from literary invocation (she brings in influences as diverse as Hannah Arendt, Marcel Proust, and W.B. Yeats) to lush, filmic description (citing a roster of filmmakers from around the world), Howe attempts—and often brilliantly, obliquely manages—to capture those qualities of youth that age inevitably dulls: the passions that doom, save, or at least alter the course of our adulthoods. Her encompassing knowledge (she can furnish an anecdote or datum to illustrate nearly any idea, from the neuroscientific to the devotional) and empathic vision will make readers believe her pronouncement: “History is the top god of the secular world.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/26/2016
Release date: 11/01/2016
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-55597-951-5
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