cover image Ultra Talk

Ultra Talk

David Kirby, . . Univ. of Georgia, $19.95 (254pp) ISBN 978-0-8203-2909-3

Over the course of 16 previously published essays, ranging from extensive literary analyses to relatively brief reviews, poet and critic Kirby (The Ha-Ha ) explores subjects as diverse as Walt Whitman, NASCAR and stripping, utilizing his extensive literary knowledge throughout. Kirby's general thesis is that the best art is art that's appreciated by both the elite and the general public over a long period of time, and in his academic essays about Shakespeare and Whitman, he demonstrates this bridging with an effortless combination of anecdote and quotation. Kirby's travels also play a significant role, particularly his journeys through Italy, which are warmly, if sometimes a bit tediously, recounted in "Looking for Leonardo" and "I Shot a Man in Corleone." Kirby's interaction with pop culture subjects is less assured than with high culture ones—his Johnny Cash insights, for example, seem anemic next to his bravado interweaving of Emily Dickinson and Bernini's Saint Teresa. In most places, however, Kirby's understanding of such a wide range of subjects greatly enhances his literary analysis, as in his piece about striptease, which bemoans the devolution of erotic dancing from an art form to pornography. No matter the subject, Kirby's goal is to find connections—between the past and the present, the artistic and the mundane—and, for the most part, that goal is soundly achieved. (Mar. 25)