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a self-contained world of books. At seventeen, he lost his chance for a naval career at Annapolis, his fondest dream, when his younger brother flung a piece of coal over a hedge, hitting him in the left eye, which he later lost to surgery. At Vanderbilt, Warren idolized his teacher John Crowe Ransom, the first poet he had ever met, with whom he shared his own poems. After earning assistantships, fellowships , and scholarships to the University of California, Yale, and Oxford, Warren eventually settled into married life, became editor of The Southern Review, and achieved fame with his novel All the King's Men. Fame and fortune were offset, however, by recurring unhappiness and depression. In college Warren suffered an emotional breakdown and attempted suicide because he had fallen so far behind in his studies . He endured a disastrous first marriage to a neurasthenic, who spent most of her time bedridden. In later years, Warren enjoyed a happy second marriage, along with fame and financial security. Generous quotations from Warren 's letters reveal the intense struggle of the High Modernist. While working on All the King's Men, Warren wrote to his close friend, Katherine Anne Porter, "At times I feel that I see my way through the tangle; then at moments, I feel like throwing the whole damned thing into the Tiber." If there is a fault to Blotner's presentation , it is that, like many other biographers, he has become enamored of his subject. His narrative is strewn with personal praise, as in this extravagant sentence: "America 's preeminent man of letters, master of genres, prodigiously creative, heavy with awards and prizes honoring his genius, Robert Penn Warren was also that rare being, a genuinely good man." Unlike most other writers, Warren excelled in many genres, including essays, poems, novels, historical fiction , and biographies. He was, indeed , the only writer ever to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for two genres, fiction and poetry, twice for the latter. Blotner's passion for his subject echoes Warren's own view of art and life: "What is man but his passion?" 0B) Perdido by Rick Collignon MacMurray & Beck, 1997, 221 pp., $18.50 Following up his internationally successful debut, The Journal ofAntonio Montoya, Collignon's second book is a mystery/love story that turns on issues of ethnicity. Will Sawyer, a self-employed builder and carpenter, has lived in the New Mexico village of Guadalupe for so long that he feels that he is part of it. His partner, Felipe, is Hispanic, as are his girlfriend, Lisa, and most of his acquaintances. So when Felipe tells Will a chilling story of an unidentified young woman found hanging from Las Manos bridge twenty-some years ago, Will doesn't expect racism to rear its head. But as he starts asking around, trying to find out more, everyone tells him the same thing: Forget about it. It was a long time ago. Besides, she was white. As Will's curiosity gets him deeper and The Missouri Review · 207 deeper into sensitive territory and into trouble (a brutal beating and a close brush with a murder accusation are two of the trials he faces), his friends withdraw and he finds himself alone with an unsolvable riddle. Some of the best moments in the novel are those solitary ones in which Will questions his motivations for continuing to probe into a decades-old mystery. This, along with the twists in his tenuous relationship to Lisa, rather than the mystery itself, becomes the heart of the novel. Collignon's New Mexico village feels absolutely real, as do his dialogue , and the characters' actions; people really do behave exactly this way. There's a faint hint of magical realism in some of the village's history —enough to give the novel an exotic feel that serves it well. Will is admirably sensitive, Lisa appealingly tough, and Felipe is a decent guy, though he does cop out on Will for a while. Even Ray Pacheco, the villain of the book—if he can be called that—is mostly redeemed in the end. The story resolves on a satisfying note, though perhaps too easily, pointing up the one small...


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