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  • G-7 Criticism of Fiction

A Books

Bower, Anne. EPISTOLARY RESPONSES: THE LETTER OF TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICAN FICTION AND CRITICISM. University of Alabama Press, 1997. xiii + 211 pp. $34.95.

Byatt, A.S. THE OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH SHORT STORIES. Oxford University Press, 1998. xxx + 439 pp. $30.00.

JML would not ordinarily comment on an anthology of stories, especially one without any scholarly apparatus, even introductions to the authors or their tales. But a selection and general introduction by one of contemporary England’s most popular and knowledgeable novelists surely warrants notice. Byatt is convinced that there is a recognizably English mode in short fiction and that it is not to be found merely in the anti-colonial: “The English are what other English-speakers define themselves against.” But her sense of an English tradition differs from that of F.R. Leavis: Arnold Bennett’s “The Death of Simon Fuge” (a text not included here because it is too long) she describes as “a masterpiece of the mixed tones, precise observation, social shifts, and narrative surprises I was coming to see as English. . . .” The “narrative surprises” would likely surprise Leavis, as well perhaps as Bennett’s biographer, Margaret Drabble.

There are surprises as well among the stories that Byatt does collect: “There is a surprisingly powerful line of English surreal fantasy, starting with William Gilbert (the father of the Gilbert and Sullivan Gilbert), moving through Ronald Firbank and (in a way) Virginia Woolf to Leonora Carrington and the science fantasy of J.G. Ballard and Ian McEwan.” Also unexpected is the linking of Lawrence and Woolf as “High Modernists”: “High modernism in English writing seems to be related both to a questioning of perception and a desire to do away with the centre of self, or of social self . . .”—but this is a matter of theme to Byatt and not of the technique used to manifest theme. While we are not likely to find many of Byatt’s own influences here, we probably will find a certain affirmation of the line she has taken and, perhaps, even a hint of where she might go in her fiction in the future. MPL [End Page 468]

Cohn, Joel R. STUDIES IN THE COMIC SPIRIT IN MODERN JAPANESE FICTION. Harvard University Press, 1998. xi + 241 pp. No price listed.

Danow, David K. MODELS OF NARRATIVE: THEORY AND PRACTICE. St. Martin’s Press, 1997. 202 pp. No price listed.

Doody, Terrence. AMONG OTHER THINGS: A DESCRIPTION OF THE NOVEL. Louisiana State University Press, 1998. 265 pp. $40.00.

Geyh, Paula, Fred G. Leebron, and Andrew Levy. POSTMODERN AMERICAN FICTION. W.W. Norton & Company, 1997. 671 pp. $24.95.

Fisher, Barbara M. NOBLE NUMBERS, SUBTLE WORDS: THE ART OF MATHEMATICS IN THE SCIENCE OF STORYTELLING. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997. 160 pp. $31.50.

Chapter Five of Fisher’s book focuses on Jorge Luis Borges and Chapter Six on Toni Morrison.

Kershner, R.B. THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY NOVEL: AN INTRODUCTION. Bedford Books, 1997. xi + 148 pp. $35.00.

Designed primarily for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students, at a time when young assistant professors are likely to be so specialized that they know little of backgrounds and contexts—sometimes even in their own fields—this may prove an invaluable text for them, too. The need is perhaps greatest in the study of Modernism and Postmodernism. Kershner demonstrates throughout a knowing and nuanced understanding both of his subject and of his audience. His emphasis is not on individual novels and novelists but on the cultural, historical, and literary milieu within which they worked: influences in the general culture, predecessors among writers, contemporaries, followers, and, especially, critics and critical trends. A glossary of literary terms and a bibliography of secondary sources round out the text. Even experts are likely to find something here. MPL

Litvak, Joseph. STRANGE GOURMETS: SOPHISTICATION, THEORY, AND THE NOVEL. Duke University Press, 1997. xi + 181 pp. $45.95 cloth, $15.95 paper.

McCracken, Scott. PULP: READING POPULAR FICTION. Manchester University Press, 1998. vi + 209. $69.95 cloth, $22.95 paper.

Messent, Peter. NEW READINGS OF THE AMERICAN NOVEL: NARRATIVE THEORY AND ITS APPLICATION. University of Alabama Press, 1998. xvi + 328 pp. $24...

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