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Inspired by sources as diverse as Virgil, Dumas, and the daily newspaper, the 8 stories in Guy Davenport’s Eclogues reflect the wide-ranging passions and curiosities of one of America’s most original and agile writers. Taking the form of diary entries and pastoral poetry, and with allusions to Italo Calvino and the Greek gods, these stories are prime examples of Davenport’s ingenuity and mastery of technique.
Eclogues includes philosophical explorations and portrayals of deeply human emotions with stories such as “The Trees of Lystra,” Davenport’s meditation on the intersection of early Christian doctrine and Greek myth, and “On Some Lines of Virgil,” in which a group of teenagers experiments with sexuality during a lazy summer in Bordeaux. The author’s playfulness and defiance of expectations make for a fascinating and surprising read.
The imagination is like the drunk man who has lost his watch, and must get drunk again to find it. It is as intimate as speech and custom, and to trace its ways we need to re-educate our eyes.”Guy Davenport
Modernism spawned the greatest explosion of art, architecture, literature, painting, music, and dance of any era since the Renaissance. In its long unfolding, from Yeats, Pound and Eliot to Picasso and Matisse, from Diaghilev and Balanchine to Cunningham and Stravinsky and Cage, the work of Modernism has provided the cultural vocabulary of our time.
One of the last pure Modernists, Guy Davenport was perhaps the finest stylist and most protean craftsman of his generation. Publishing more than two dozen books of fiction, essays, poetry and translations over a career of more than forty years, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1990. In poetry and prose, Davenport drew upon the most archaic and the most modern of influences to create what he called assemblages”lush experiments that often defy classification. Woven throughout is a radical and coherent philosophy of desire, design and human happiness. But never before has Davenport’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry and translations been collected together in one compendium. Eight years after his death, The Guy Davenport Reader offers the first true introduction to the far-ranging work of this neglected genius.
Reality, fiction, history, and art all converge in this collection as Guy Davenport explores complex ideas within narratives that are full of emotional depth. Fearless and inventive in style, these stories take many forms, such as the imagined World War I journals of sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska in “The Bowmen of Shu” and the parallel tales of poets Matsuo Basho and Ezra Pound hiking the same mountain trail centuries apart in “Fifty-Seven Views of Fujiyama.”
In the title story, which also features illustrations by the author, a group of philosophers tries to establish a utopia in Amsterdam, harkening back to a prelapsarian world of uncomplicated sexuality and nature untarnished by human influence. The idea that the past perpetually influences the present is at the heart of Apples and Pears as Davenport relocates his references from all eras to contemporary times—and as he uses measured, poetic language to uncover the cyclical nature of culture.
Da Vinci’s Bicycle, Guy Davenport’s second collection of stories, was first published in 1979, and contains some of his most important fiction. Written with tremendous wit, intelligence, and verve, the stories are based on historical figures whose endeavors were too early, too late, or went against the grain of their time. They are all people who see the world differently from their contemporaries and therefore seem absurd, like Pablo Picasso in "Au Tombeau de Charles Fourier," Leonardo Da Vinci in "The Richard Nixon Freischütz Rag," James Joyce and Guillaume Apollinaire in the marvelous "The Haile Selassie Funeral Train." Hilton Kramer of The New York Times has said, "Davenport’s conception of the short story form is remarkable. He has given it some of the intellectual density of the learned essay, some of the lyrical concision of the modern poem––some of its difficulty too––and a structure that often resembles a film documentary. The result is a tour de force that adds something new to the art of fiction."
Esteemed writer and translator Guy Davenport's brilliant story collection, first published in 1979, is recognized today as a classic of American fiction. Written with tremendous wit, intelligence, and verve, the stories are based on historical figures whose endeavors were too early, too late, or went against the grain of their time.
Featuring both short stories and critical pieces, The Death of Picasso exhibits the versatility and innovative thinking that drives all of Guy Davenport’s work. As a critic, he takes on topics such as Ruskin’s life and influences and Benson Bobrick’s history of English versions of the Bible, through which Davenport explores how translation has affected the text’s interpretation for centuries. Both his fiction and essays contribute to the eternal conversation on how the arts reflect, inform, and influence the human experience.
In his short stories, Davenport vividly evokes entire worlds—such as that of a regatta on the Thames or an air show in Northern Italy—with an eye for telling details that typically go unnoticed. Fact and fiction combine and shift forms throughout the collection, for instance, in “The Concord Sonata” when the author manipulates time and space to put thinkers like Thoreau, Wittgenstein, and W. E. B. Du Bois in conversation. Davenport’s uninhibited imagination and singular gaze reveal both the commonplace and the sublime in a new light.
In this collection of 20 essays, Guy Davenport applies his insightful gaze and critical wisdom to topics including modern art and the effects of the automobile on contemporary society. His work ranges from “What Are Those Monkeys Doing?” in which he links the paintings of Rousseau to the writings of Rimbaud and Flaubert, to “Imaginary Americas,” a survey of the different roles America has filled in the imagination of Europeans. Davenport, 1 of the foremost American critics and intellectuals of the 20th century, brings his piercing intellect, encyclopedic references, and careful eye for detail to each piece in Every Force Evolves a Form.
Whether writing on the philosophy behind modernism or a study of table manners, the paintings of Henri Rousseau or the design of Shaker handicrafts, Davenport always devotes his full attention and multi-angled analysis to the subject at hand. To read this thought-provoking collection is to see the inner-workings of Davenport’s brilliant mind, with its varied fascinations and unparalleled insights.