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honourable' turns out to be its opposite: truth-seeking is an imperial activity, an assertion of power. The problems caused by the sentence-by-sentence argument are compounded by the larger structure of the discussion. By organizing some chapters around abstract concepts (violence, honour) and others around political movements (reform, radicalism) and still others around sociological concerns (education), and by subdividing the chapters into small, practically self-contained units whose relationships to each other are not always made clear (a section on Irish ethnic identity, for example, appears in the midst of a chapter on Roosevelt and reform), Fraser separates events, movements, and 'chivalric patterns' that occur at the same time, making it very difficult for the reader to perceive connections or contradictions . It is interesting, for instance, to discover that during the period when the progressives were adopting chivalric attitudes toward fighting big business, they were behaving dishonourably toward the labour movement; yet these facts appear in two different chapters and are never drawn together by the author. In general, the problem with America and the Patterns of Chivalry is not so much that Fraser bit off more than he could chew, but that his bites were too small, too poorly co-ordinated, and too infrequent for him adequately to digest the rich banquet that is spread before him. But given the extent of his chosen portion, his attempt is an admirable, perhaps even a heroic one, and, despite some weaknesses in argument and organization, leaves one with much to think about. (MARTIN KREISWIRTH ) Frederick Asals. Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity University of Georgia Press 268 $17.50 These days one enters the lists of Flannery O'Connor criticism with great care. Few writers of limited output have inspired such extensive and sustained attention: as Southerner, avowed Catholic, and painstaking artist O'Connor has drawn forth a steady stream of tributes, articles, and books, especially since her untimely death in 1964. Nevertheless, in reviewing eight of those full-length studies in 1977, Melvin J. Friedman emphasized that what was still lacking was a careful study of her imagination and art (' "The Perplex Business": Flannery O'Connor and Her Critics Enter the 1970S'). He called for a writer who could question the old pieties and offer new, illuminating readings of the reuvre. In Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity, Frederick Asals has taken up the challenge. His focus is upon a mind driven, in Henry James's phrase, by a 'rich passion ... for extremes.' His study seeks to 'plot out' not only 450 LETIERS IN CANADA 1982 the distinctive patterns and obsessions of O'Connor's strenuous and astringent imagination ('in the world she dramatizes only extremes have genuine existence,' p 3) but also the significant changes in religious vision that occurred in her fiction over the two decades in which she developed her craft. Asals is a critic who knows his ground. Long a contributor to The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin, he has exactingly weighed the insights of his critical fellows: indeed, many of his footnotes constitute jousts, clarifications of the new ground he claims. His approach owes much, I sense, to Martha Stephens's The Question of Flannery O'Connor (1973), a book that sought to investigate those aspects of O'Connor's work that arouse discomfort - the grimness, darkness, joylessness, and violence of her Christ-haunted narratives, espeCially the two novels. Asals, however, takes matters much further. Not at all beguiled by O'Connor's statements about her Catholicism, willing to query her own comments on her work, yet careful to avoid the biographical fallacy, he digs deep into the roots and shape of O'Connor's imagination in order to measure and account for that enormous power to disturb. While the book he produces is often repetitious, one is never left, in any of the six chapters, with the sense of a critical intelligence on hold. If he uses a phrase or passage three or four times, a method is always evident in the echo, a recognition that the complexity of O'Connor's imagination is most effectively accounted for by approaching it from several angles. Asals's thesis is carefully revisionist. Holding...


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pp. 449-451
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