cover image Sheer Fiction

Sheer Fiction

Paul West. McPherson, $17.95 (221pp) ISBN 978-0-914232-82-7

West, no mean novelist himself (Rat Man of Paris, among others) is in love with the infinite expressive possibilities of the novel, and this anthology of his critical writings is an eloquent accounting of his passion. In six longer essays and nearly 40 reviews from various sources he makes his tastes abundantly clear. He is bored by the conventional well-made novel, and seeks out adventurous, mind-expanding work, from Virginia Woolf's Orlando through the Latin American magic realists and beyond, to many of the major names of contemporary European fiction. (William Gass, Guy Davenport, Walter Abish and Evan Connell are the only Americans found in his pantheon.) It's a limited view of fiction, but West pursues it with great zeal, a refreshing dash in the writingcompared to his, most literary criticism is a genteel snoozeand an eager sense of discovery. It's almost impossible not to be lured to read some of his cherished, little-known prizes: Osman Lins of Brazil, Juan Goytisolo of Spain, for instance; impossible, too, not to realize how provincial much American fiction reviewing is by comparison. (April 29)