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Time & Money Paperback – September 17, 1996
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Late in his life, William Matthews left us with Time and Money, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. It is a meditation on loss and grace that some of us will be thinking about for a long time. "Bob Marley's Hair," which discusses the famed musician's dreadlocks falling out during chemotherapy, is as poignant as, well, "Babe Ruth at the End," the story of Ruth on his deathbed. The real gem, though, is "Dead Languages," a study in how, to use Frost's expression, "way leads on to way." Matthews tosses out fascinating examples of how words have evolved, how "Live English lugs a dead language inside." The way language mutates its way through the world, unconscious of its own changes, Matthews writes, isn't far from our own dimly understood lives: "We did what we did, we're / not proud nor ashamed, we led our lives / or they led us, and how would we know which?"
"It is a meditation on loss and grace that some of us will be thinking about for a long time." Amazon.com
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My favorite piece is "Social Notes from All Over: Mt. Olympus"--the classical, fantastical setting is infinitely appealing. Matthews has gods "cross dressing as mortals" ever aware, though just as eager to remain deluded, that all they have is nothing at all. If I paid for this poem alone I would have been satisfied.
There is a great deal of grief in these pages, and more than a little bit of sadness, but as trite as it sounds, there is a sense of elation to be found as well. Poetry should always leave us with some thought, we should think of it fondly, want to recite it if only to ourselves if we can--Matthews affirms all that.
Mr. Matthews is the Charlie Parker of verse.