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AfterWord: Conjuring the Literary Dead Paperback – May 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As in Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology, the dead here communicate freely and imaginatively with the living—nearly 20 literary greats altogether—through essays, interviews, and playlets. The presentations and subjects are not all of equal value, and curiously, none of the subjects predates the 18th century: no conversations with Homer, Dante, or Shakespeare. This communion with the spirits includes a house call by Jeffrey Meyers on Dr. Johnson, who expounds on the fallacies of the American Revolution and the even more combustible topic of women; Cynthia Ozick's interview with a maddeningly elusive Henry James; Margaret Drabble's restrained essay on Arnold Bennett. Touching on the motivating fear of death inherent in the nature of authorship, these last two (previously published) pieces are among the most polished. An occasional jealousy or rivalry flares from the grave: Edith Wharton wants Pearl Buck (and us) to know that the Nobel Prize should have gone to her. But in many ways this fun idea fizzles into an academic approach presaged by a terribly sober-sided introduction.(May)
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 “Leavening its gothic logos with a bit of fanciful mythos, this eccentric and compelling volume provides rich and often surprising reading. What else could one ask of a book that seeks congress with corpses?”—Sean Latham, author, The Art of Scandal: Modernism, Libel Law and the Roman à Clef




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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587299895
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587299896
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,635,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By michael ulin edwards on October 18, 2015
Format: Paperback
The editor, Dale Salwar, presumably from the University of Iowa, has assembled articles and interviews with various writers, each piece being a communication from a dead writer.
Various means convey the writings are usually dialogue which is poorly written.
There are questionable assertions: INTERVIEWER: "Do you accept the view of Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald...that you were the first indigenous American to write about American manners rather than European ones?"
EDITH WHARTON: "That's probably quite true..."
WRONG! Mark Twain wrote about American manners when Edith was a girl...
EDITH WHARTON complains (p.151) she had no formal education. Melville had no formal education; Twain got through the sixth grade. But I agree that Wharton would have been a far superior author if she had taken Creative Writing classes at the University of Iowa.
Edith could afford to do so. Her family was filthy rich. Edith's maiden name was Jones, and because neighbors like the Rockerfellers and Whitneys always wanted to keep pace, "Keeping up with the Jones," became the cliche. The Jones were the first family on the block with electricity, telephones, flatscreen TVs and iPads. They never saw an app they didn't like.
In her interview Wharton complains that Pearl Buck got the Nobel Prize and she didn't. Sour grapes. Willa Cather didn't get a Nobel either.
There are other statements demonstrating an appalling lack of knowledge about the author: Joseph Conrad is not all Heart of Darkness. Conrad had no humor in his books? Anyone who has not read Lord Jim should not be writing an essay for this compilation. Anyone who does not know the butterfly chapter in Lord Jim, God help them.
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By BLehner on November 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet a long dead author of your choice? This is exactly what happens in AfterWord by Dale Salwak. Bringing together several biographers and novelists who contribute to this collection of stories in which they conjure the Literary Dead, the reader will meet Thomas Hardy and Samuel Beckett, as well as Jane Austen and Mary Shelley, to name but a few.
I admit, I was very much intrigued by the idea and the different approaches - visitation, evocation, and consolidation - that were taken to bring those long gone back for a little chat. While the introduction as well as the essay "Descent: Negotiating with the Dead" by Margaret Atwood were both promising and fascinating, the conversations and encounters often felt more like a synopsis of a certain writer's live, quite obviously composed by someone who knows their biography inside and out. What I missed in most cases was the, if not perfect, at least harmonious combination of fact and fiction.
There were only few essays that stood out for me, and sadly, I felt disappointed with most parts of the book. For those who are still curious about it, I can at least recommend my personal favorites, which are certainly worth the read. Those were the essays on George Orwell, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Frost.
In short: What a fabulous idea, yet some writers should have stayed in their graves!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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Format: Paperback
"...the dead endure indelibly in our minds; even when they are gone from our lives, they are vivid in our memories, only a breath or a thought or a remainder away."

- Margaret Atwood

The premise of the intriguing work of literary criticism is: what great writer would you want to resurrect, in order to ask him or her one burning question? Of course that's beyond the realm of possibility, therefore, what we wind up with is the opportunity for critics specializing in a particular author to ask about one problem, or one issue left unresolved, from the life of that author.

Each writer was given the same option to choose which question or questions he or she would pose, and to which author. It's a fine exploration for academics, a good exercise in making educated guesses. Since the "real" answer can't be known, each writer throws his or her best educated "answer" at the question. But for those like myself, with a B.A. in literature and no particular concentration, the book is uneven. Chapters addressing writers I know fairly well, such as: Faulkner, Samuel Johnson, Henry James, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde, etc., interested me. Whereas those dealing with writers I dislike or care/know less about were almost completely uninteresting. A subjective measure, I realize, which will differ for each reader.

I personally enjoyed the chapters on Samuel Johnson and William Faulkner, two learned men legendary for their curmudgeonly, difficult behavior. In Johnson's case, some of that can be excused due to his ill health. An opinionated, occasionally abrasive character who would go to any lengths in order to win an argument, Samuel Johnson is considered one of the greatest literary luminaries of all time.
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