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The novel ends in the fall of 1992. We will have to wait to see if history catches up with Dorris and Erdrich’s most satisfactory contemporary myth. DIANE D. QUANTIC Wichita State University Reviews 371 Comma in theEar. By Gene Frumkin. (Albuquerque: Living Batch Press, 1990. Distributed by University of New Mexico Press. 139 pages, $12.95.) Gene Frumkin has written a remarkably ambitious and successful long poem. Frumkin is probably best known for the poems of place collected inClouds and Red Earth, but the new book is a successor to his brilliant medita­ tions on perception and language inThe Mystic Writing-Pad . While the poems sometimes evoke western scenes—Hawaii, New Mexico, LosAngeles—their real setting is the human mind, or, to put it another way, the language that the mind and its culture dwell in. Frumkin was a surrealist early in his career and he has recently been influenced by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E movement. He has the technical and philosophical resources to look at the human condition as many best understand it at this time: as a condition of language. Structuralism, post­ structuralism, the dialogism of Bakhtin, so many of our philosophies turn on language. Frumkin is haunted by the theme of exile. One of the chief voices in his poem, a woman who writes letters to a poet figure, isJewish, which helps to keep the theme before us. But we are all in a Diaspora from any comforting religious, political or philosophical framework, Frumkin implies, and language is our one homeland. But Frumkin knows how problematic even language can be, and many sections of his poem meditate in a witty and verbally-textured way (Frumkin’sdiction is dazzling) on such apparently neutral terms as “Of,”“And,” “Like,” and “About.”These are as interesting and suggestive as his musings on apparently grander subjects like “The Subject Decentered” or his bits of story­ telling in a section like “Walter Benjamin in Moscow.” Running through these meditations is the continuing story in letters ofthe poet-figure’s correspondent, an intellectual woman whose loves in a variety ofwestern American settings take on a soap opera quality without losing their pathos. Pathos is a keynote of the poem but so is wit: there are some fine moments of comedy as the speaker explores the ambiguity of gender roles, and odd motifs like tatooing take on meaning while remaining bizarre. A poem as mature, accomplished and pas­ sionately relevant as this one is an event. BERT ALMON University ofAlberta ...


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