cover image Sheer Fiction

Sheer Fiction

Paul West. McPherson, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-929701-38-7

``Criticism, occupying time you might spend on the original text, should be at least as well-written as that text.'' Novelist and critic West ( Rat Man of Paris ), in his third volume of essays, continues to address the state of literature, past and present, with sophisticated literary showmanship. The articles and book reviews offered reflect West's sweeping knowledge and keen idiosyncratic mind. While several pieces deal with classic masters (Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann), West also concerns himself with contemporary writers (Milan Kundera, Doris Lessing), including some who stand at a distance from any canon (Anne Rice). Witty, opinionated and given to strategic descriptive flourishes, West dismisses the K-mart minimalism as ``self-righteous plainness masquerading as austerity.'' He is deeply disturbed by the dehumanization that he feels is a result of modern warfare and reaches into nonfiction to discuss memoirs that have been written about the Nazi era (e.g., Letters to Freya 1939-1945 by Helmuth James von Moltke). ``Whatever I am doing, my head is always kneading and rekneading givens. I hear voices,'' West explains by way of an ars critica . We're fortunate to overhear some of those voices. (Aug.)