cover image Elena


Thomas H. Cook. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $18.95 (435pp) ISBN 978-0-395-35632-6

Elena Franklin is an acclaimed novelist and critic whose career mirrors much of the history of American letters over the past 50 years. She is also the medium for Cook's reflections on ""the fruits of a considered life,'' which, as envisioned here, seem to flourish in an exclusively literary grove. Elena's brother, William, who tells her story, writes on English poetry; one of her lovers produces books of social relevance, another, volumes of Southern history. When not engaged in researching a book, the characters are off writing one, or talking about their work in a polemic manner. The points thus raised will ring true for those familiar with the exigent nature of the artistic process. Unfortunately, the very qualities which support creative endeavorsdispassion, a need for solitude and a tendency to internalize emotiontend to make such writers poor subjects for fiction. Or, as one character remarks, ``There are great works of literature, but no great ones about it.'' Cook wrote Blood Innocents and The Orchids. January