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The Midnight Paperback – May, 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook, 956 (Book 956)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811215385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811215381
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #772,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Howe continues to unsettle easy assumptions about contemporary experimental American poetry, and, simultaneously, origin myths of the U.S., with carefully measured doses of early history, national and personal: "I am assembling materials for a recurrent return somewhere. Familiar sound textures, deliverances, vagabond quotations, preservations, wilderness shrubs, little resuscitated patterns. Historical or miraculous. Thousands of correlations have to be sliced and spliced." More immediately autobiographical and less uniform than books like The Europe of Trusts or Pierce-Arrow, Howe's latest can seem scattered on a first reading, but soon resolves itself into a remarkably cohesive invitation to imagine oneself into historical roles that have been laid away in books: "Come away-This way, this way-Calvinists, Congregationalists, Anabaptists, Ranters, Quakers, Shakers, Sandemans, Rosicrucians, Pietists, reformers, pilgrims, traveling preachers, strolling players, peddlers, pirates, captives, mystics, embroiderers, upholsterers, itinerant singers, penmen, imposters." Howe finds resonance in the smallest inscription on a family ledger, taking as guidance Emersonian aphorism: "The poorest experience is rich enough for all the purposes of expressing thought." The smallest details thus come to replace the big picture, as when hearing a midnight sound "echoed and re-echoed only." Like Agnes Varda in her film The Gleaners and I, Howe demonstrates that the artist's unpredictable path to knowledge, generous in its digressions and attentions to the obscure, is revealing, suspenseful and necessary.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


A distinct and singular talent. ...[Howe] is perhaps the closest thing we have to another Emily Dickinson or Gertrude Stein. -- Buffalo News, R. D. Pohl, 3 August 2003

A phangasmagoric work that investigates our cultural roots. Adventurous readers shouldn't miss. -- Library Journal, 15 May 2003

Demonstrates less what poets do with history than what history does to poets....Meanings are nested in Howe -- Rain Taxi, Michelle Mitchell-Foust, Winter 2003

Howe continues to unsettle easy assumptions about contemporary experimental American poetry. -- Publishers Weekly, 19 May 2003

Howe has continued to produce work of meditative urgency unmatched in recent American poetry. -- Voice Literary Supplement

Howe's genius is to expose the occluded past while resolutely preserving history's basic alterity. -- Bookforum, Dodie Bellamy, Summer 2003

Howe's images have...a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere reminiscent of Borges at his sharpest. -- Kirkus Reviews

Howe's most profound exploration to date...a book that improves with each reading. -- Robert Baker, American Book Review, March/April 2004

Nothing quite like it exists in British or American writing today. -- Richard Sieburth, The Times Literary Supplement

[D]emonstrates less what poets do with history than what history does to poets.... Meanings are nested in Howe. -- Michelle Mitchell-Foust, Rain Taxi, Winter 2003

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on September 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Just about the best of Howe's recent books THE MIDNIGHT is jampacked with allusion, drama, and poetry, sometimes withdrawn seductively from the reader, hidden in a clutch of quotations, and at other times lowered, as if from a great heught, tantalizingly in your face. She has always been one to look underneath the surface of things; as an actress her training was in the Poets Theater of Cambridge, and her mother was the famous Mary Manning of Dublin's Abbey Theater. Thus there's a tendency to examine, sometimes at length, the underside of process, the thickness of what we do and especially what we say, when writing takes place, as the wind that reveals the silver underside of the leaves we'd otherwise never notice.

THE MIDNIGHT is fairly shaking with sadness, regret, and the stern obligations of memory, as Howe again scans the marginalia of another. This time it's her late uncle and the books he left behind in a seemingly otherwise blank (or pathetic) existence, specifically his copies of R L Stevenson-the novelist admired above all others by Howe's hero Henry James. As she turns the pages of the novel, parts of her uncle's life (and family photographs) seem to pop out like something from a Nick Bantock novel, but it's all part of Howe's finely tuned poetry machine, the unexpected choice of word and quotation, the sizzle of disjunction and more than anything else, the shiver of anticipation that one is getting something from this poetry unavailable elsewhere, a direct pipeline into a strain of American experience that the past has otherwise denied us. It's suspenseful, and fun too, like an Indiana Jones movie. Don't let people tell you differently.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Lloyd on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
The verbal shades/shards are here accompanied by intrigue in the form of photographs. Pictures of books, books depicted in her words. That combination makes this book something unexpected, though we expect and are rewarded by her challenges. Traversing from abandoned concrete and a forgotten train station in Buffalo to the closed cloister where Emily Dickinson's manuscripts are kept, and many other places in between, the range of subjects and objects here does not fail to hold the reader. How such wideness of topic can be spun into such compelling narrative is the mystery we admire. And there is humor here, also. So this could be a good first book of hers to read, or it could be said to pick up where Pierce-Arrow left off, with a thread or two from Frame Structures and Bed Hangings pursued to even greater effect. Buy, enjoy, learn from this book.
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