The Best of the Kenyon Review
. Sourcebooks, $21.99 (441pp) ISBN 978-1-4022-0035-9
Since 1939 (with a 10-year hiatus from 1969-79), The Kenyon Review has steadily published essays, short stories, poetry and fiction from both celebrated and unknown authors. This new anthology, culled from the Review's archives, is as much a testament to the journal's history, range and eclecticism as it is a collection of venerable and established authors. Assembled by journal's current editor, Lynn, the anthology is full of brilliant and lesser-known works by acclaimed writers ranging from W.H. Auden and Samuel Beckett to Julio Cortazar and Italo Calvino. Works published in the early years of the Review, particularly the poems of Randall Jarrell, John Berryman and Bertolt Brecht, share a particular point of despair directed at a fallen, broken world--a vision probably affected by the experiences of the second World War. While there are several pieces of notable prose returned to life by this anthology--Peter Taylor's short story""Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time"" and F.O. Matthiessen's critical essay on Henry James being some of the best--it's the collection's poetry that is the most affecting. Derek Walcott's elegiac and playful""Piano Practice,"" Galway Kinnell's mournful""Goodbye,"" along with Richard Howard's long poem""Occupations"" and the closing pieces by Charles Wright and Ruth Stone reverberate and echo one another with their haunted memories, visions of the past and a wisdom that can come only from looking back. As Oates declares in her introduction, this anthology is""a remarkable gathering of twentieth-century literary riches""--an excellent choice for readers of all stripes.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2003