cover image The Sea-God's Herb: Essays & Criticism, 1975-2014

The Sea-God's Herb: Essays & Criticism, 1975-2014

John Domini. Dzanc, $15.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-1-938103-78-0

Domini (A Tomb on the Periphery), a long-time contributor to everything from the New York Times to the American Book Review, has gathered a selection of his essays and reviews spanning 40 years. Many are freewheeling critiques of hard-to-define books, amounting to "an argument on behalf of latter-day non-traditional storytelling." Domini waxes poetic and philosophical about postmodern novels, movies, even comics, daring readers to find fault with his deep thoughts and complex tangents, and occasionally seeming a little too fond of his own voice when he attempts to turn even a simple review into an intellectual razzle-dazzle. He nevertheless upholds and defends his role as a reviewer and critic, claiming "my analysis strives to discern humane purposes in the book at hand, the way it aspires to art's enhancement while alert to the world's degradations%E2%80%A6The more important point is that every critic gets his smart mouth smashed, sooner or later, by core quality." This collection is interesting, even enlightening, for how he examines cultural artifacts%E2%80%94many of which he considers unjustly overlooked and disserviced by modern criticism. In the end, Domini's work is as elusive and mercurial as the subjects he covers: fascinating, but defying casual explanation. (Apr.)