cover image The Perfect Life

The Perfect Life

Peter Stitt. Tupelo (, $16.95 trade paper (180p) ISBN 978-1-936797-36-3

In his first essay collection, Gettysburg College poet and professor of English Stitt, founding and current editor of the Gettysburg Review, rakes over his life in these exercises of genre indirection and faction (fiction + fact). Stitt (The World's Hieroglyphic Beauty) returns to his old stomping grounds of Poe, Wright, Austen, and Frost, dissecting their actions as well as their prose and sex lives. Deep satisfaction comes from watching Stitt pull Poe apart ligament by ligament, testifying to Poe's arrogance, but proving that the poet was a victim, instead of the typical "libertine." With the death lurking in each essay, Stitt's writings do not examine the perfect life but its inverse, through murky lenses of disappointment, divorce, suicide, and cancer. Rife with engaging moments of self-reflection, and occasional unsophisticated interjections that creep into otherwise objective narratives, Stitt's prose can be disappointingly thin on the sentence-level, despite the overall formal strength and truth of each essay. (Dec.)