cover image Orphan Factory: Essays and Memoirs

Orphan Factory: Essays and Memoirs

Charles Simic. University of Michigan Press, $39.5 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-472-09663-3

In Simic's writing, one always hears the accent, the indelible mark of his native Serbian tongue. The accent, which in his poetry conjures the surreal qualities of a heightened attention to language, lends to his prose a tone of curiosity and wonder--even the occasional banal phrasing is suffused with the author's rich sense of humor at the micro-comedies of modern existence. A collection of Simic's nonfiction from the past few years, the book includes selections from a memoir in progress, musings on the immigrant experience, laments for the chronic warfare in the Balkans, epigrammatic prose-poems and critical essays on poetry, painting and photography. As with his poetry, the essays are at their best when fragmentary and spontaneous ideas and images combine to link his own experiences to those of his subjects. His observations are filled with wisdom and humor, and often irreverence, as when describing the poet Robert Lowell fondling two young groupies while discussing 19th-century French poetry: ""Why wasn't I a great poet?"" Simic quips. But, of course, he is and whether you're reading The World Doesn't End (for which he won a Pulitzer in 1990) or Hotel Insomnia, or Orphan Factory, he is a always a pleasure. (Oct.)