How Things Fit Together

Kevin Oderman, Author University Press of New England $21.95 (172p) ISBN 978-1-58465-047-8
In this accomplished essay collection, published after it was awarded the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference 1999 Bakeless Literary Publication Prize for Nonfiction, Oderman writes of his search for a sense of unity and authenticity amid the disparate elements of his life and within the universe. His quest leads him on many journeys, both literal and figurative: to Greece and Turkey, on a hunt for caribou with his father and brother, on an imagined walk with Coleridge and on several fly-fishing trips. In the eponymous first essay, Oderman contemplates a paperback edition of James Agee's A Death in the Family, which bears a picture of an empty Morris chair representing the death of Jay Follet, the father of the family Agee brings to life. Oderman's love of Agee's work leads him in search of a Morris chair for himself and an understanding of the enduring principles of the artisans who founded the Arts and Crafts movement, which leads to a greater understanding of the longevity of art and the ""fast slide in time to dissolution"" for all of us. In other essays, Oderman, an English professor at West Virginia University, links packing a shelf of books with metaphors of wandering, a lost peahen with the pain of losing things to the past. Like water flowing seamlessly, Oderman's skill as a weaver of memory and language is flawless. He keeps his reader intrigued not only with what he shares with his stark, illustrative writing but also by what he barely suggests: ""I wonder why journeys are necessary at all, but they are."" (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
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