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The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays (Nonpareil Book, 78): 10 (Nonpareil Books, 10)

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You stand in awe of the connections he can make between the archaic and the modern; he makes the remote familiar and the familiar fundamental. I came to the book for Davenport's essay on his neighbor, the photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard (both men worked and flourished in the same "rotting Kentucky town", Lexington), but all 40 of these essays (written in the 1970's) are well worth devouring. Who would suspect the influence of Delacroix on Van Gogh; of Dickens on Kafka, of Harriet Beecher Stowe on Tolstoy?

Extremely important in terms of statement of Davenport's aesthetics, a very personal essay, should be read in tandem with Barth's The Self in Fiction. I wish every English teacher read this book and shared the insights with their students -- hopefully with shades of enthusiasm and passion like Guy Davenport. Not for stuffy lowbrow Goodreads shitbird-types who pout about an author being smart and challenging. Nor can any understanding be achieved of twentieth-century art if the work under consideration is not kept against the background of the war which extinguished European culture. A page of Mandelstam's prose is a kind of algebra of ironies over which the same hand has drawn comic furniture and objects with a life of their own a la Chagall.He was also surprisingly radical: One of his heroes was the 19th-century utopian socialist Charles Fourier. He can make you yearn to read or look again at neglected masters like the poets Charles Olsen and Louis Zukofsky and the painters Balthus and Charles Burchfield. This is that rare breed of literary criticism which at times exceeds the works it ruminates upon, produced by a man of deep empathy and a true patron of great art.

He was a professor of English for three decades, having taught at Haverford College and the University of Kentucky. Literature is as pictorial as painting or sculpture,” he remarked in an interview, and his prose is both learned and luscious. Yet while Davenport's essays ooze erudition from every square molecule of print, he's quite witty and accessible.You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. I had purchased it because I liked the name of the book and its strong patterned cover as well as the name of its author. But if he could be imperiously intellectual, he also went in for experimental fiction and wistful remembrances of childhood excursions, for dreamlike drawings and clever puns. In one essay, he did his best to scandalize the magazine’s readership by praising the beauty of androgyny. Eakins and Muybridge worked together; Eakins came over to Camden and painted and photographed Whitman.

It’s packed with those vivid, meaning-making connections apparent to and privately gathered by common readers, but often excluded from the dossiers handed down to us in school and in most journalistic book review columns. And even if much of the territory is terra incognito for me, his demanding and un-condescending essays are perfect launching pads for further explorations. Their hair was curled with irons heated in an open fire, then oiled, then shoved into a bonnet it would tire a horse to wear.He combined the contemplation of nature and of civilization, which are apparently entirely contradictory, into a single intoxicating vision of life, because he always had sight of the transitoriness of all phenomena. The nineteenth century had put everything against the scale of time and discovered that all behavior within time’s monolinear progress was evolutionary. His essays, too, are born of a longing for freedom, but androgyny is less their substance than their style.

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