A Sole Survivor: Bits of Autobiography
Ambrose Bierce. University of Tennessee Press, $40 (384pp) ISBN 978-1-57233-018-4
Best remembered today for his masterpiece of irony, The Devil's Dictionary, the versatile Bierce was a war correspondent, a political essayist, author of three volumes of popular satirical verse and, at times, a brilliant craftsman of the short story. Indeed, there were few areas of literature Bierce did not explore fully before he disappeared into the Mexican revolution in 1913 at the age of 71, never to be seen again. Autobiography, however, was one of them. Joshi and Schultz seek successfully to fill this void by supplementing Bierce's brief ""Bits of Autobiography"" with rich slices of first-person reportage from throughout his published and unpublished writings. These slices include Bierce's eyewitness accounts of Shiloh and other great battles of the Civil War, along with previously lost autobiographical fragments from the pages of the San Francisco Examiner, the New York Journal and Cosmopolitan. Of particular value are excerpts of letters from the last nine years of Bierce's life that reveal him in several unlikely guises, among them mentor to the young Ezra Pound. Here we have Bierce as we've never had him before: writ large in his own words. His remarkable life could have no better narrator. (Sept.) FYI: Readers with weakening eyes may want to break out their glasses--the typeface is quite small.
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999