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BOOK REVIEWS mythology that it elicited. At a time when the future of our profession may seem dim, Laskowski does well to remind us that however distorted they become, legends do (and criticism should) begin in fact. Karen L. Levenback George Washington University George Moore & Autobiography Elizabeth Grubgeld. George Moore and the Autogenous Self: The Autobiography and Fiction. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994. xviii + 287 pp. $49.95 THIS IS THE MOST thorough book on Moore that I know of. Its research is very wide: Elizabeth Grubgeld is even in command of the tricky question of Moore's revisions, his eternal fiddling with his earlier books, not always to their improvement. We learn that there are seven versions of Confessions of a Young Man. And we are led through the mazes of Irish political history during Moore's long life, and each page is replete with references to everyone from Olive Schreiner to Schopenhauer . It is also a thoughtful book; it is constantly interesting, even at times overwhelming, about theories of biography and autebiography, of authorial voice and narrative voice; of how a writer makes the world and how the world makes him; and, in Moore's case, of how he made himself. This is the meaning of the word "autogenous" in the title; Moore took "the man of wax" he called himself and created one self after another, each stratum building atop the preceding ones but never, or so it seems to me, entirely burying them. The autogenous process extends, we are told—and this requires a leap of faith—even to his characters, like Esther Waters: "Both standard categories of deterministic force—environment and heredity—lead her toward self-alienation. Her self-creation , which comes about through the birthing and rearing of her child, leads her to apprehend the integration of life" (2). "Life" is a hard term to deal with, and so is "instinct," a word used much more frequently in this book; once again the story of Esther Waters is relevant: "... he resorts to a simplistic declaration of 'instinct' as the final explanation. Throughout his other writings 'instinct' has indicated a unique inner productive capacity; it is the term Moore uses to explain his own literary gifts and to explain the force that empowers Esther Waters to give birth and raise her son to adulthood against all odds" (92). This identification between the creator and the created, though it seems to verge on the 567 ELT 38:4 1995 metaphysical, is, if it exists, quite unconscious on Moore's part. Moore would not have said, "Esther Waters, c'est moi." On the other hand, alert distinctions are made between the narrator and "the autobiographer-satirist," and we are given a definition of what Moore's autobiographical persona is: "a complex variation on the fundamentally wise and good (though often naive) satiric speaker" (116). As this and the preceding example will show, the prose is not pellucid, but can, sometimes with some effort, be made to make considerable sense. Grubgeld derives excellent insights from Moore's innumerable letters , which are often almost too clear—transparent, naive, egotistical. She has apparently read thousands of these artless missives; though she finds them without much literary merit, she notices how a letter of Moore's "was like the autobiographies an occasion for self-creation" (185), and is even able to classify them according to type, such as the pugnacious letters to publishers; the letters to friends, with their "allconsuming egotism," asking for help in research or proofreading; or the "erotic letters" to Lady Cunard and others, which should naturally be the most interesting but somehow aren't, even when (or because?) they sound sincere. We are used to great modern letter writers like Woolf or Lawrence or Ackerley; Moore does not belong with them. His letters are too self-conscious or not self-conscious enough. Another arena where Grubgeld gives him low marks is his "imaginary conversations" (of which he wrote a number), since in them, like the proverbial snake, Moore has all the lines; the interlocutor is merely there, and not himself a conversationalist with wit, impact, and opinion of his own. Thus an imaginary conversation of Moore's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 567-569
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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