Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, About the Author

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

Ronald Koury

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pp. ix-x

Around thirty years ago, the editors of the Hudson Review began to notice a new trend in literary criticism. Many of the best literary essayists and reviewers were sending us critical work written in a highly personal manner. They read like memoirs; in fact, some were clearly memoirs but literary criticism at the same time. ...

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Introduction

William H. Pritchard

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pp. xi-xx

Among the memorable formulations in Wordsworth’s great preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1798, one may serve to characterize a common spirit in the essays collected here. His formulation attempts to define and celebrate what the Poet is and does: ...

Listening to Virginia

Jeffrey Harrison

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pp. 1-2

Part One: Awakening to Literature

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A Double Education

Antonio Muñoz Molina

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pp. 5-17

While General Francisco Franco lay slowly dying in a hospital bed in Madrid in the late fall of 1975, I lay reading novels in a rented student’s room more than three hundred miles to the south, in Granada. After a dictatorship of almost forty years, Franco’s approaching demise cast a spell of uncertainty and hope over the whole country. ...

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“Apt Admonishment”: Wordsworth as an Example

Seamus Heaney

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pp. 18-33

The history of poetry contains many accounts of what might be called poetic recognition scenes, meetings where the poet comes face to face with something or someone in the outer world recognized as vital to the poet’s inner creative life, and accounts of these meetings represent some of the highest achievements in the art. When a practitioner describes an encounter with a living or dead master, ...

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The Poem and the Path

Andrew Motion

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pp. 34-57

Edward Thomas was the first poet I fell in love with; I was sixteen, from a country background in which books and writing played no significant part, and felt he was speaking to me about things I knew. Hedges, fields, woods, the sky at evening, aspen trees, elm trees, sedge warblers, paths. Paths especially, and paths of all kinds. Little flint-studded tracks, ...

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Waterloo, the Story of an Obsession

Louis Simpson

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pp. 58-66

I wrote away to England for Vanity Fair, enclosing a postal money order. There wasn’t a copy at school: the library didn’t have one, and it wasn’t on the shelves with mildewed books that had been set for examinations. There were copies of Kenilworth and Virginibus Puerisque, but no Vanity Fair. ...

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Writer and Region

Wendell Berry

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pp. 67-83

I first read Huckleberry Finn when I was a young boy. My great-grandmother’s copy was in the bookcase in my grandparents’ living room in Port Royal, Kentucky. It was the Webster edition, with E. W. Kemble’s illustrations. My mother may have told me that it was a classic, but I did not know that it was, for I had no understanding of that category, and I did not read books because they were classics. ...

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The Poetry of Life and the Life of Poetry

David Mason

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pp. 84-100

I owe my existence to the Japanese Imperial Army. Not in the way you might be guessing—the incident I am about to relate happened a decade before I was born, and my mother was safely tucked away in a California college for women.
It happened to my father at twenty-four, a red-haired Naval Lieutenant on the bridge of a destroyer, the USS Terry, patrolling the waters off Iwo Jima. ...

Part Two: Students and Teachers

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Talking Back to the Speaker

Clara Claiborne Park

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pp. 103-127

Let’s suppose I have something to say. And I fool around with it, and write it again, and try it another way, and another, because even though it’s saying what I want it to, it’s not saying it right. And suppose it finally comes to me that the trouble (part of the trouble) is the voice: that I’m writing it for the Hudson Review when it should be for PMLA. ...

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Before I Read Clarissa I Was Nobody: Aspirational Reading and Samuel Richardson’s Great Novel

Judith Pascoe

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pp. 128-143

When I first came across Richardson’s eighteenth-century blockbuster, I was standing in a campus bookstore in Philadelphia in the late 1980s. I had just enrolled in graduate school, chiefly as a dodge. My escape was from a high school classroom in Chesapeake, Virginia, or, to be more accurate, from a hallway lined with classrooms through which I pushed a cart loaded with Bunsen burners and test-tube holders. ...

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Learning from Robert Fitzgerald

Dana Gioia

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pp. 144-163

Early one afternoon in September 1976, I was walking through the New Haven train station, trying to catch the Amtrak express to Boston. The weather was suffocatingly muggy, a gray Northeastern day when the sun is invisible but oppressive and the morning drizzle steams from the tarmac. For two hours the public address system had slurred assurances to the platform that the train would arrive in fifteen minutes. ...

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A Pilgrimage to Santayana

Irving Singer

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pp. 164-174

When historians in the twenty-first century assess the nature of twentieth-century philosophy from their own perspective, they may have some difficulty in placing the mind and works of George Santayana. There are two ways in which we might appraise his contribution. We could take him as a writer about the human condition who also did philosophy, ...

Part Three: Tributes

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Last Days of Henry Miller

Barbara Kraft

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pp. 177-190

That last year he shuffled between his old-fashioned, high-set, walnut-dark bed, the desk at its foot, the Ping-Pong table in the lanai on which he now painted, a more sedentary kind of play for an octogenarian, and the dining table, in fact, a redwood picnic table covered with a cloth. This is where he held court every evening attired in his bathrobe, plaid or blue terry cloth, ...

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Prophet against God: William Empson (1906–84)

George Watson

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pp. 191-203

A little less than middle height, he spoke in an accent that sounded clipped and archaic, and his movements were as darting and unpredictable as his mind. It was natural to be startled by the presence of William Empson, however glad you might be to know that he was there. Of all the beings I have ever known, he was the most utterly alive, and you felt at once quickened and nervous in his company. ...

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A Memoir

Richard Hornby

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pp. 204-214

In 1962 I graduated from university, begat a child, stage managed eleven plays, directed three including an original musical that I had co-written, and acted in six. I joined Actors’ Equity, moved to New York, and never again made any money from acting. Much to the dismay of my pregnant wife, I turned down an offer of a well-paying job out of town in the nascent space program ...

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Horatio Hornblower

Igor Webb

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pp. 215-236

C. S. Forester published the first of the Horatio Hornblower books that I read, Lieutenant Hornblower, in 1952, the year that my family and I arrived in the United States (the first book of the saga Forester wrote, however—Beat to Quarters—came out in 1939). It is the first book I read in English, and it is the book that made me a reader. ...

Part Four: Facing the Text

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Nell and I

Joyce Zonana

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pp. 239-257

In West Philadelphia’s Clark Park, a shabby collection of trees and benches in a once-grand neighborhood—and across the street from a city public health clinic—looms a life-sized bronze statue of Charles Dickens, comfortably seated in a large armchair atop a five-foot red granite base. Below the author is another figure, a just-adolescent girl who steadfastly looks up at him, ...

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My Roommate Lord Byron

Thomas M. Disch

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pp. 258-263

It would have pleased Lord Byron to know that, having been the most renowned, imitated, and execrated of the Major Romantic Poets, he is now, almost two centuries later, the least honored, the most ignored and deplored of that select few. For he thrived on giving offense. He was a sexy, swaggering contrarian whose wisecrack answer to the earnest inquiry of Concerned Virtue, ...

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Flannery O’Connor Resurrected

Susan Balée

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pp. 264-280

Flannery O’Connor had some advice about trips to Atlanta: “Get in, get it over with and get out.” I can only imagine how she would feel about the Atlanta International Airport in 1994. You can get in, all right, but getting out requires some doing, including a long ride on a computerized monorail, à la Disney World. ...

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The Pleasures of Reading

Joseph Epstein

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pp. 281-302

Five or six years ago, I was informed by my literary agent that two of my books were to be recorded by a firm called Books on Tape. Although the advance was not such as to earn me an honorable discharge from the financial wars, this was nonetheless pleasing news. Five or six months later, two smallish boxes arrived with the actual tapes. ...

Copyrights and Credits

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pp. 303-306

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 307-310

About the Author

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Back Cover

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