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writes, "I spent the early nineties trapped in a double singularity. Not only did I feel that I was dUferent than everyone around me, but I felt that the age I Uved in was utterly dUferent from any age that had come before. For me the work of regaining a tragic perspective has therefore involved a dual kind of reaching out: both the reconnection with a community of readers and writers, and the reclamation of a sense of history ." Franzen admits to "an angry and frightened isolation" (apparently in those days before The Corrections ), and he writes of his intention for the collection of essays to represent his movement "toward an acceptance —even a celebration—of being a reader and a writer." He wants to appear optimistic that the white noise of commercial clutter can be stUled, even if only for a few hours, by Uterature —that a writer and a reader can still connect. Yet he can't help but remind us that in this electronic day and consumer age, it isn't easy. Consider the final two selections in the book The first is Franzen's delightfully horrifying post-Oprah essay, "Meet Me in St. Louis," in which he recounts his return to his native city (hehasn't lived there for twenty years) with an Oprah cameraman and producer . The announcementofOprah's selection of The Corrections has not yet taken place, so the controversies exist only on the horizon, and they're attempting to tape footage that wiU capture the atmosphere of the book and the essence of the author. The essay begins with Franzen repeatedly driving slowly across a bridge that spans the Mississippi River into St. Louis, and climaxes with Franzen at his childhood home—cameras rolling—staring upward at a young oak tree the family planted after his father died and imagining how this wUl play on TV. FinaUy Franzen shouts, "This is so fundamentaUy bogus!" Franzen concludes the coUection with a brief narrative of a bus trip to Washington, D.C., in January 2001 to protest the inauguration of President George W. Bush (both for his poUcies and for the fiasco that was Horida). Written in the second person —as though Franzen couldn't quite bring himseU to admit that the person who wrote the essay was the person who rode the bus to the protest —the protagonist, if we could call him that, joins other young northeastern progressives in the cold, gray, January rain as they chant pithy slogans and enjoy a certain spUit of antiestablishment communitarianism . Then they go home. "You may stül be one version of yourseU ," Franzen concludes, "the version from the bus, the younger and redder version, as long as you're waiting for the subway and riding home. But then you peel off the thermal layers, stül damp, of the long day's costume, and you see a whoUy different kind of costume hanging in your closet; and in the shower you're naked and alone." Even after The Corrections. Even after Oprah. (SK) Taking Down the Angel by Jeff Friedman Carnegie MeUon UP, 2003, .101 pp., $12.95 Taking Down the Angel is Jeff Friedman's third book of poems. As in his previous books, Record 176 · The Missouri Review Breaking Heat Wave and Scattering the Ashes, Friedman writes in a refreshingly straightforward style that unerringly penetrates his subjects . He does not rely on complex poetic structures or exotic references to sustain his writing. In his best poems, he explores a subject through uncluttered narratives and unencumbered images. In the opening and closing poems of this book, the author's father is a central character, an icon of the American work ethic—and a disappointment . "My father died in a car accident/practicaUy penrdless/and my uncle went to sleep forever in a hotel room/hundreds of mUes from home. . . ." writes Friedman. After this sudden loss, which earlier on is perceived as abandonment, Friedman begins to find shreds, shadows, echoes ofhis father in unlikely places. The angel taken down in the book's title is his father. But the "taking down" is not a faU from heaven or from grace; it is more a recognition...


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pp. 176-178
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