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Pieces of My Mind: Essays and Criticism 1958-2002 Hardcover – September 15, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born on the Isle of Man and linked over the years with Cambridge, Harvard and Columbia Universities, Kermode belongs to the superleague of internationally famous old-school literary critics that also includes Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman and Christopher Ricks; his best-known works in America include The Sense of an Ending, Shakespeare's Language and an autobiography, Not Entitled. This hefty and very worthwhile collection samples his interests from opera to modern dance, from the New Testament to the English novelist Ian McEwan. It includes chapters from Kermode's most famous books, freestanding academic pieces and lectures, essay-reviews from the London Review of Books, and four substantial unpublished essays, including a provocative exploration of literary and cognitive "forgetting." Kermode's recurring subjects include Shakespeare, Wallace Stevens, Joseph Conrad, modern fiction and narrative generally, and the nature of interpretation. If his most theoretical work seems very much of its time (the 1970s and '80s), the work on novels, poems and plays stands up quite well, exhibiting Kermode's blend of sophisticated reading and consistently accessible writing. "Shakespeare and Boito" (a new piece) compares the original Othello to the one in Verdi's opera; "The Man in the Macintosh" (1979) asks Joyceans, and New Testament readers, "why do we prefer enigmas to muddles?" Kermode can simply observe, or ask questions, rather than advancing extended arguments, a way of reading that proves as instructive as it is satisfying.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Distinguished British critic Kermode celebrates his often-misunderstood calling in his preface to this substantial collection of critical essays culled from four decades of work, writing that "the business of explanation--of elucidation and comparisons--has to go on as long as art goes on." And criticism, Kermode remarks, can and should be as pleasurable as it is useful, although his idea of pleasure is of a rigorous nature. Kermode parses complicated, even esoteric aspects of story and text, metaphysics and poetry, and the link between social change and the evolution of the novel, yet he is unfailingly clear and cheerfully engaging, classy, and stimulating. His long essays chart fresh discoveries in the work of Wallace Stevens and retrieve a remarkable yet forgotten American dancer, Loie Fuller, and a neglected writer, Christopher Burney, a British agent captured in occupied France who wrote behind bars. Then there are brilliant reflections on Conrad, brain-twisting considerations of our notions of time and how they have influenced literature, and short takes on living writers, all criticism at its finest. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809076012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809076017
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,344,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sir Frank Kermode has been a prominent figure in the world of literary criticism since the 1960s. He has been King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge and Professor of Poetry at Harvard. He was knighted in 1991.

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Format: Hardcover
It's beautifully fitting that this collection of Kermode's essays begins with "Poet and Dancer Before Diaghilev." Kermode moves with balletic grace and alacrity through subjects ranging from Parisian salon culture of the '20s to Don DeLillo, often using the written word (Yeats, Stevens) as a point of departure for further critical and cultural adventuring. Pieces of My Mind is a pure pleasure from start to finish -- a generous testament to Sir Kermode's love and wonder for many, many things.
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By A Customer on January 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Kermode's collection of essays demonstrates a brilliant mind scanning the diverse subjects to which it was led by curiosity and passion. As a literary critic, Kermode is an exemplar of the creative possibilities of theory-- rather than operating in one single mode, he adopts freely as he sees fit from a range of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. These essays prove the value in a commitment to following personal interests rather than fashionable academic mandates and to wearing critical perspectives as a mask: for the sake of entertainment, flashes of enlightenment, and personal freedom. With a passion for literature, and for thinking about literature's bearing upon itself, Kermode writes beautifully and clearly. He carries literature beyond its own formal bounds, without subordinating it to 'larger', 'more serious' concerns (such as Philosophy, Politics or History) though acknowleding its interactions with these disciplines. More specifically, Kermode shows a consistent concern with hermeneutics and narrative as code, returning again and again to an interest in the New Testament that appears even before his well-known "The Genesis of Secrecy".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This guy can write so well, but this book is a relatively boring amalgam of essays, mostly about nothing of real interest. There's some great Kermode writing, but not much of it is to be found here.
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