In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS All the essays are heavily dependent on earlier and much better critics . One even quotes Ian Watt to describe the plot of a story. Most take up the question of fidelity to Conrad's work. But some pictures, like The Duellists (based on "The Duel"), fail precisely because they are too literal while others, like Apocalypse Now, succeed though they abandon Conrad 's text. There is far too much comparison of novel and film plots, and not nearly enough on the meaning of the films as independent works of art. This book shows how few critics are knowledgeable about both genres . Moore claims that "the study of the films can help us to understand Conrad's literary works." But the discussions, especially the ones that focus narrowly on the use of radio in Welles's work or sound in Coppola's, reveal nothing at all about Conrad's fiction. An oft-repeated generalization holds that mediocre novels make better films than first-rate ones because it is more difficult to translate profound meaning into cinematic terms. Yet many great literary works have made great films: Shakespeare's Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III; Dickens's Great Expectations and Oliver Twist; James's Washington Square and The Wings of the Dove; Forster's A Room with a View and Howards End; Joyce's Ulysses and The Dead; Lawrence's Sons and Lovers and Women in Love. The contributors do not address the vital question of why Conrad's novels are not equally filmogenic. I believe the disastrous attempts to simplify his moral complexity, eliminate his irony and psychological penetration, change his tragic conclusions and transform his grim settings into exotic locales, his espionage into romance, his action into melodrama, his pessimism into cheerfulness have ruined most pictures based on his work. As Marlow explains inHeart ofDarkness: "When you have to attend to ... the mere incidents of the surface, the reality—the reaüty, I tell you—fades. The inner truth is hidden." Jeffrey Meyers ________________ Berkeley, California Conrad's Short Fiction Ted Billy. A Wilderness of Words: Closure and Disclosure in Conrad's Short Fiction. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1997. xii + 282 pp. $37.50 AS ITS LONGISH title suggests, this is an ambitious study. Billy offers a reading of seventeen selected short stories and two novellas (Heart ofDarkness and The Shadow Line), discusses the nature of fictional closure, and meditates on Conrad's often stated distrust of lan481 ELT 41 : 4 1998 guage and the implications of his stance for his writing. The book is divided into six thematically structured chapters, and deals with standard anthology pieces such as "The Lagoon" and "The Secret Sharer" as well as less often read tales such as "The Inn of the Two Witches" and "Because of the Dollars." A brief "Prelude" on language and fiction sets out the parameters for the individual discussions to follow and a "Coda" treats Conrad's endgame strategies. Billy's observations are bolstered by a scholarly apparatus of almost sixty pages, comprising notes, a list of works cited, and an index. Nearly thirty years after the publication of Lawrence Graver's pioneering , and stolid, Conrad's Short Fiction (1969), the need for a new full-length study of Conrad's short fiction may be said to be acute. (The exceptions to this generalization are Heart ofDarkness and, arguably, The Shadow Line, both widely discussed, and the former even overanalyzed .) The critical upheavals and crosscurrents since 1969 would by themselves justify undertaking a critical enterprise of this kind, even if one were to discount the increasingly sophisticated theoretical repositioning of short fiction generaUy. To this one must add a very substantial body of new knowledge about Conrad's compositional strategies and writing life, produced by a large and diverse international community of Conrad enthusiasts. One need hardly add that a number of illuminating , critically sophisticated essays on individual short stories have appeared over the past thirty years. This vast outpouring of critical work cries out for thorough-going contextualization and synthesis, but in this respect, Billy's monograph represents numerous opportunities sadly missed. It does so partly because of its somewhat oddly combined aims and vague...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 481-484
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.