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critical essays discussing one of America's most unique storytellers,
sci-fi/fantasy writer Ray Bradbury. Although one applauds Bloom's acumen in
choosing Bradbury as a subject worthy of elucidation, the actual essays
selected are really rather disappointing. Perhaps the fault lies not with
the editor (whose bona fides are so widely recognized), but with a general
dearth of meritorious criticism regarding an author who works principally in
the literary ghetto that is known as 'genre' fiction. Most of the scholars
represented here have picked up some specific quality that seems noteworthy
in a few of his works, and have explicated this quality in some detail, but
none seem able to view the man's work as a whole, or evaluate its overall
import. Perhaps closest is William F. Touponce's cryptic essay "The
Existential Fabulous: A Reading of Ray Bradbury's 'The Golden Apples of the
Sun'", but his 'oneiric' approach is aimed at the serious scholar, not the
casual reader. More commonplace are Diskin's "Bradbury on Children", and
Hazel Pierce's "Ray Bradbury and the Gothic Tradition", with emphasis on the
horror genre, and the pieces by Wayne Johnson and Gary Wolfe, which focus
more on the famous sci-fi collection The Martian Chronicles. It is typical
of the narrow focus of this volume that only Kevin Hoskinson's fascinating
political study "Ray Bradbury's Cold War Novels" does more than mention the
master's finest novel, Fahrenheit 451. This reviewer would much rather have
seen some in-depth analysis of Bradbury's style (which is surely one of his
strong points), and more attention given to his many short stories, which
are certainly superior to most of his novels. Inquisitive readers who come
to this book wondering why this fine, but often overlooked writer is deemed
worthy of criticism at all will come away knowing little more than they came
And it doesn't end there, they analyze more of his stories. I don't know if Mr. Bradbury will agree on this book, but it did enlight me.
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Marx also reacted against the social and religious morals prevalent in society, Whitman agrees by affirming, "No standard above men and women, or apart from them. No more modest than immodest" as well as, "If I worship one thing more than another, it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it." Both of these men contribute to the belief that people sin only as a result of standards placed upon them from external factors. If society were to eliminate these factors such as morality and religion, the "naturally good" person would have no reason to sin.
The most important belief that Marx adhered to was a future revolution in which the oppressed overthrow their oppressors. Whitman labels the oppressed "forbidden voices" and states that "Through me forbidden voices; Voice of sexes and lusts-voices veil'd, and I remove the veil." By removing the blinding veil, the oppressed can see their oppression and revolt against oppressors.
In the present case, Mitchell has done something that some readers might consider pretty hubristic and perhaps even sacrilegious: he has produced an edited version of Walt Whitman's great "Song of Myself" that corresponds to no published version whatsoever.
How? Well, he started with the original (1855) edition of the poem, and then considered _every single change_ Whitman ever made in the poem clear up to his death in 1892. If Mitchell thought the change improved the poem, he left it in; if not, not. The result, for obvious reasons, is a "Song of Myself" that Whitman himself never actually wrote.
That's _not_ necessarily a bad thing. I respect Mitchell's taste and judgment, and I happen to agree with him that some of Whitman's later alterations made the poem worse. In fact I think Mitchell's edition is extremely fine.
But some readers may be looking for a version of "Song of Myself" that reflects Whitman's taste and judgment rather than Mitchell's. So let the buyer be aware.
At any rate I share Mitchell's high estimation of this poem and I'm happy that he's published his edition of it. Whitman belongs with Emerson and Thoreau on a shortlist of great American sages; this single poem is a large part of the reason why.
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The book is useful to be sure, but there is so much to be ignored as an excrescent carapace willing itself rather unnecessisarily to the bodies of poets who not only lived without it, but also employed far more piercing modes of definition and discussion in their own works.
It is possible that other readers also will find these chapters try hard to justify themselves. No justification was necessary. These poets share a remarkable amount with respect to their attitudes, efforts, and poetic forms. The author is perceptive and had the opportunity to write a stunning appreciation of an Atlantic bound by the poems of Pessoa and Crane. The author chose instead to define a literary category (Anglo-American Modernism) and write just as much for a diverse camp of literary theorists as for Pessoa and Crane loyalists. I feel an opportunity has been missed, other readers may not share this sentiment considering some of the book's bright analyses.
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However, those with more patience than my ignorant self will find in Robinson Crusoe a delightful tale, which as well as being a fictional documentary of the most unusual thirty years of Mr. Crusoe's life, also has time to ponder upon philosophical and theological ideas, in a style that makes the reader feel as if they are involved in the conflicts between the functionalist and cynical thoughts going on in Crusoe's mind. It may not be a gripping white-knuckle adventure, being rather more leisurely and acquiescent, but it is still rather easy to see why Robinson Crusoe is regarded by some as one of the greatest novels of all time.
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