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"The Mercy Gate" is adventurous both in style and plot. Geoffrey A. Landis' "Winter Fire" is also a worthy selection, but Walter Jon Williams' "Lethe" is my favorite of the collection . Benford comments about "Lethe" that WiUiams' story caught his attention "because its discussion of cloning particularly goes far beyond the clichéd discourse of mainstream thinking, and indeed, rings changes upon even advanced ideas that have been depicted in the SF Uterature for decades." In "Lethe," cloning has become commonplace. Everyone is stored digitally and reconstructed by nanotechnology as necessary. As WiUiams tells us, "He Uved in a world where no one died, and nothing was ever lost . . . Physical immortality was cheap and easy. . . ." And yet, the story begins after Davout's partner, Katrin, has died. "Lethe" is an involving read and a good blend of "old" and "new" SF as weU. It has enough hard science to satisfy traditionalists like Benford, enough Uterary flair to appeal to a wider audience and a thoughtful approach to one of those big questions : What does it mean to be human? (MB) Men in the OffHours by Anne Carson Knopf, 2000, 166 pp., $24 In her new book, Men in the Off Hours, poet and classicist Anne Carson addresses, in prose and in poetry, the ways we attempt to define and organize reaUty. "Essay on What I Think About Most," a poem on the nature of metaphor, decribes poetry as "the willful creation of error,/the deliberate break and complication of mistakes out of which may arise/ unexpectedness." Carson clearly prizes the unexpected, and in this book she repeatedly mines it to prove that black and white are never as interesting as the vast gray area between them. Men in the Off Hours is Carson's sixth book. In the previous five, she earned a reputation for sensual, fantastic language and tongue-in-cheek musings on her academic discipline (she teaches classics at McGiIl University in Canada). Her last book, Autobiography of Red, was a contemporary retelling of the Stesichoros poem "Tale of Geryon," with the title character as a photographer mired in an obsessive, destructive love affair. Carson's new book features similar juxtapositions of ancient characters with modern media. A striking series of poems titled "TV Men" imagines characters as disparate as Virginia Woolf and Thucydides, Sappho, Artaud, Ahkmatova, Tolstoy and Lazarus through a filmmaker 's lens. In "Hopper. Confessions," achingly precise descriptions of Edward Hopper's frozen still-lifes are counterpointed with quotes from Augustine's Confessions. The last poem in the series ends with the pithy question, "For in what does time differ from eternity except we measure it?" Like Carson's previous books, Men in the Off Hours is an eclectic package. Narrative poems mix with highly conceptual verses on metaphor . A tender, personal poem on her father's deterioration is in sharp contrast to her smart imaginary "interviews" with artists and writers. If there's anything that connects all The Missouri Review · 177 these works, it's their "unexpectedness "—of theme, of metaphor and especiaUy of language. Carson turns nouns into verbs and jumbles the placement of words within phrases and sentences. AU her games with language, like well-wrought metaphors , blaze new paths of understanding . Less engaging than the poems are Carson's scholarly essays. A particularly long essay, peppered with endnotes, "The Phenomenology of Female PoUution in Antiquity," is dry reading compared to Carson's vivid poems on similar subjects. One suspects Carson is anticipating the reader's reaction when she says, in an earUer poem, "the chief aim of philology /is to reduce all textual deUght/ to an accident of history." (RY) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers Simon & Schuster, 2000, 375 pp., $23 The current popularity of memoirs that detail the author's personal pain and suffering, perhaps best iUustrated by the 1997 pubUcation of Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss, is a real concern for Dave Eggers as he begins to write the story of his own complicated young adulthood. "Oh no!" a friend exclaims when Eggers reluctantly admits that he's writing "a memoiry thing." Eggers acknowledges that writing about oneself may in fact be a bad idea...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 177-178
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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