Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Minor Classics

Reading Writing, by Julien Gracq, translated from the French by Jeanine Herman (Turtle Point; $17.50). Greatly respected for his early novels and criticism, Gracq seems to have done his utmost to eschew conventional acclaim. He refused the Prix Goncourt in 1951, published little, and, now in his mid-nineties, lives in the small Loire town where he was born. This volume, published in France in 1980, is a series of thoughts on literary matters loosely grouped under subject headings. Many entries are no more than a few lines long, but Gracq's highly personal style and his wide and thoughtful reading make for memorable observations--Celine is "a man who started marching behind his own bugle." The book is an engaging antidote to what Gracq sees as a problem with literary criticism: "A book that has seduced me is like a woman who places me under her spell: to hell with her ancestors, birthplace, background, relationships, education, and childhood friends!"

Every Eye, by Isobel English (Black Sparrow/David R. Godine; $23.95). Hatty, the narrator of this exquisite 1956 novel, is a piano teacher who was born with a lazy eye. Though her vision has been repaired, a lingering feeling of isolation makes it seem that "this outward sign was only the visible proof of inward impediment." Hatty's voice on the page vividly conveys her sense of "discordancy" with others, as the action shifts between recollections of adolescence and young-adulthood in grim, gray England and her considerably cheerier present, travelling through a Technicolor Spain with a new, much younger husband. The true marvel of the novel lies in the taut interweaving of these narratives: past informing present and present recasting past. Enlightenment is kept satisfyingly in abeyance until a rapturous conclusion on a mountaintop in Ibiza.

The Galosh, by Mikhail Zoshchenko, translated from the Russian by Jeremy Hicks (Overlook; $24. …

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