Top positive review
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The creative life sympathetically examined
on February 17, 2007
I have read a number of the essays in this collection and found them to be informative, insightful and at times, eye- opening. Acocella often chooses subjects who are not that well known , and who she feels have been neglected. Two of the novelists she writes about here, Joseph Roth and Hilary Mantel were little known to an American audience. But the essays I have read and very much enjoyed are those she has written on Stefan Zweig, and Saul Bellow. I also read with great interest her critical review of a biography on James Joyce's daughter, Lucia, one which Acocella feels makes exaggerated claims for Lucia's influence on her father's work. Another outstanding essay here is the one on Primo Levi who Acocella clearly believes is one of the great moral heroes of the century. Acocella has a real feeling for the struggles involved in the literary and artistic, the creative life. She often reveals a special kind of sympathy with her subject. And this is one of the things which makes her writing, to me anyway, so likeable. One feels the writer herself is a very understanding and considerate person, one whose own creative effort is diligent, caring, and intuitively wise.
I have not read all this collection but from what I have and know of the work of this writer I would recommend it strongly.