It was only a few months ago that I even first heard about Frederick Exley, and his wonderful novel A FAN'S NOTES. After breezing through that novel, enjoying every extravagance of language, plumbing the depths of Exley's experience in bars, insane asylums, and the Polo Grounds, I was more than a little curious about his other two novels.
PAGES FROM A COLD ISLAND is a strong, mature, worthy follow-up to A FAN'S NOTES. I've numerous reviews claiming otherwise, but as one reader, I found COLD ISLAND picked up where NOTES left off, artistically, as well as chronologically.
If anything, I found COLD ISLAND more balanced, giving more of a historical context of the story, as Exley relates his experience interviewing Gloria Steinem, and comments on the Vietnam war. At times NOTES seemed to hover nowhere in time, whereas COLD ISLAND is more firmly rooted into contemporary America.
Overall, Exley's verbosity and sense of humor are every bit as incisive and affecting as in NOTES. Exley does go off on tangents that were probably only of interest to him. The sections on Edmund Wilson were interesting, but far too long, too detailed, and offered far too little pay-off.
But on the whole, COLD ISLAND measures up to NOTES quite well, if not surpassing it in certain respects. Exley's name-dropping and experience as a noted, if not bestselling, author are of particular interest, bringing his search for fame in NOTES full circle, and finding that he remained an outsider; Earl Exley's son hunched at the bar watching football.
--Matthew St. Amand [...]