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Book Reviews221 evening insects, the laughter of chüdren from across the way. We catch a whiff of some not yet composted stuff our dog, Obo, has worn home from his walk across the abandoned golf course. An old friend caUs. She is a teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. She teUs us about a student from not so long ago whose Wednesday evening worship was interrupted by a man who stepped into the sanctuary, loaded his pistol, and shot her to death. Reviewed by Charles Anderson A Degree of Mastery: A Journey through Book Arts Apprenticeship by Annie Tremmel Wiïcox New Rivers Press, 1999 210 pages, cloth, $27.95 Annie Tremmel Wflcox has written a couple of short books which she has stitched together quite wonderfuUy between the covers of A Degree of Mastery:AJourney through Book Arts Apprenticeship (New Rivers Press). The first book is the story of her apprenticeship under BiU Anthony, an internationally known bookbinder at the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa, beginning in 1983 and ending with Mr. Anthony's death from cancer in 1988. During the T'ang dynasty in medieval China, Zen monks wrote down anecdotes about their teachers that were coUected into books caUed Yu-Lu (recorded sayings). What we have here is the Yu-Lu of BiU Anthony. As described by Mrs. Wilcox in flat, declarative sentences (underneath which lurks a dry sense ofhumor), Mr. Anthony comes across as a taciturn and modest teacher who moves through his workplace with the quiet grace of a master. The second book is a moment-to-moment description of the conservation work Ms. Wilcox has done under BiU Anthony's tutelage. Her account ofthe nearly miraculous (or so it seems to me) resurrection ofvarious damaged books in the special coUections of the university Ubrary is fascinating, although sometimes difficult to foUow given the specific vocabulary of her craft. The detaüs require our careful attention. The reader must slow down in order to visualize the procedures she describes. In the end, these detaüs accrue, giving the book the authority and weight of immense experience. FinaUy, there is a third book here, a theme reaUy, that plays out behind the two narratives described above. What does aU this add up to beyond the acquisition of a series ofspecific techniques? What is the significance ofher apprenticeship? What are the lessons she learned? In keeping with what I 222Fourth Genre suspect is a natural reticence, Ms. WUcox doesn't expUcidy engage these questions. Instead, scattered through the text are certain interesting moments. In the middle of the book, Ms. Wilcox quotes from a journal she kept: "I have learned that to move with any speed at aU is to make mistakes."This sentence gives us a sUght shock, and we reaUze that the sensibility behind A Degree of Mastery is profoundly different from that of the dominant entertainment economy. This book advocates in its quiet way for a set of cultural values that run counter to our throwaway culture: to do something weU is very difficult. The Yu-Lu Stories were mined by subsequent Zen masters for their moments ofinsight. These moments were eventuaUy coUected together into the great koan coUections. Ms. Wilcox reminds us that there are stiU teachers among us with great integrity and wisdom. Reviewed by Karl Pohrt The Business of Memory: The Art of Remembering in an Age of Forgetting Charles Baxter, editor Graywolf Forum Three Graywolf Press, 1999 174 pages, paper, $16.00 Recently, in an AnnArbor restaurant, writer and critic Charles Baxter overheard two women conversing about memory. One of the women asked, "How much memory have you got?"The conversation then moved toward a discussion of hard drives and storage capacity. For Baxter, who writes of this encounter in "Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age," the penultimate essay in The Business ofMemory, that conversation signals a confusion in our idea ofmemory: what he calls a "conflation" between data (the facts and figures we might very weU store in our computers) and "our memories ," experiences preserved in narrative form. Data can of course be "stored" in our own minds as weU as in computer files...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1544-1733
Print ISSN
1522-3868
Pages
pp. 221-222
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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