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3 6 2 WAL 3 4 .3 F a l l 1999 each like a reiteration of all that is beautiful in his family. The resulting pat­ tern is vibrant and diverse and, ultimately, is a reflection of the power that guides creation. Even though Sanders mines many nuggets of hope in his book, I found myself occasionally empathizing with Jessie’s feeling that “the planet’s dying and people are to blame and nothing can be done about it” and with Sanders’s candid exposure of the rapid decay consuming the world. At the end of the book, as father and son camp in the Smoky Mountains, Sanders points out to the reader that “three-quarters of the haze in the air that gave these mountains their name now comes from pollution” (176). In spite of his honest appraisal of the condition of the world, Sanders is able to answer his son’s poignant question ‘“ Do you believe we can change?” ’ (the “we” being the people of the world). Sanders responds with a firm yes (186). Hope is even more powerful when it is forged while tak­ ing an honest look at all the grounds for despair. Flight Dreams: A Life in the Midwestern Landscape. By Lisa Knopp. Iowa C ity: U niversity of Iowa Press, 1998. 286 pages, $22.95. Reviewed by Gregory L. Morris Penn State-E rie Lisa Knopp is a writer who is captivated by the past—by her own past, in particular. In her first book, Field of Vision (1996), Knopp examined (among other things) the “hard remains” of memory and the ways in which memory performs as perception. Recollection, she argues, is a powerful mode of vision. In this second book, Knopp casts a backward, introspective, analytic glance at her private past, rendering the progress of her life—as a writer, as a woman, as a mother— in acute, sometimes painful detail. Flight Dreams is a self-study, an autobiographical mapping of Knopp’s movement toward a kind of consciousness within the loose geographical boundaries of the American Midwest. Born in Burlington, Iowa, Knopp considers the varied influences exerted upon her as a child in that homeplace: the ener­ gies of family and of church, the shapes and shapings of the river-bound landscape, the quiet possibilities of story. We see in her young life, espe­ cially, the incipient forms of Knopp’s later spirituality, an impulse which informs all of her relations to people and to place. One early manifestation of this spirituality is in Knopp’s fall into “flight dreams,” which for her represent an “escape from rather than ascension in earthly hierarchies” (63). At times intensely grounded in the immediacies of family, of place, of body, Knopp yearns for some kind of transcendent opportunity, some chance at flight away from the physical and toward the visionary. What she also desires is a genuine image of Self, an image which comes into clearer focus when Knopp leaves Burlington for the University B o o k R eview s 3 6 3 of Iowa. There, she involves herself in a relationship with a man who, among other things, helps turn Knopp into a “thinking woman” and who brings her around to a fuller understanding of her physical female identity: “Though I never entirely lost my desire to be glamorous, I was more willing to look like myself” (136). Among its many virtues, certainly, Flight Dreams provides a deep study of what it means to “look like myself.” But Knopp is also concerned with being herself, and that is a project that naturally proves problematic. Failing to complete her degree at Iowa, Knopp moves back to Burlington and back into the small-midwestern-town sociology from which she had taken flight. She takes a job at a local bar and there involves herself in the complex vices and virtues (the politics, the sexism, the racism) that comprise that special community. In many ways, Knopp finds grounding in this place, eventually graduating from Iowa Wesleyan College and accepting a position teaching high school English in Omaha. Paradoxically, suggests Knopp, with such grounding comes the potential for flight. A central part of Knopp’s story...


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pp. 362-363
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