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With the thirteen reflective pieces in The Shimmering Maya and Other Essays, Catharine Savage Brosman embellishes a genre. Witty, profound, and forthright, they reveal the texture of the mind and history of a singular twentieth-century woman - who nonetheless reminds us of ourselves, our mothers, and our grandmothers.
At once narrative, commentary and intellectual autobiography, these essays take some of the central questions of human experience and bring to them answers that are both personal and general. Brosman touches upon topics as varied as higher education, why we remember the past (or, history), ecology, travel, men and women (not versus, she insists), grace, and the good life. But she moors her musings to specific places, people, and events, sharing with us stories of herself and the individuals who have influenced her - parents, relatives, lovers, husbands, teachers, writers, and philosophers. She moves with entertaining ease from abstract, philosophical considerations to immediate, pragmatic ones.
If only one theme may be attributed to this rich collection it is that the metaphysical is necessarily rooted in the physical. In her final essay Brosman recalls a recent camping trip back to the mountains and desert of her childhood. She writes: "What I have had, I believe, is an intimation of order. Notwithstanding theories of physics that emphasize randomness, and the strain of epistemological thought that insists that categories come from us, not from the world, I find order in nature. . . . I cannot believe that in the order of this landscape there is not an order of the spirit."
Brosman - poet, scholar, professor, wife and mother - has a rare blend of salty good sense and exalted sensibility. In giving us the pleasure of making her acquaintance through these essays, she somehow leads us to rejoin the origins that order our own lives.
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Catharine Savage Brosman is Kathryn B. Gore Professor of French at Tulane University in New Orleans.From Kirkus Reviews:
The examined life may be the only one worth living, but does it make compelling autobiography? That's the question one ponders while navigating this elliptical, pedantic inquiry into the life of the mind. Brosman--poet, critic, and professor of French at Tulane- -professes many things in 13 opinionated essays: Foremost are respect for language and love of vigorous intellects. A tomboy whose aversion to dresses matured into intolerance for intellectual tomfoolery like feminism or deconstructionist criticism, the self-described ``last traditionalist'' values above all the common enterprise. But claims of egalitarianism and directness are undercut by a failure to balance abstraction with human experience, and by finicky, belabored prose. An essay on summer camps features this tortuous passage: ``There is something in me that calls for communal enterprises--perhaps less living in common, which can be appealing but is, strictly speaking, chiefly just a maintaining of life--than common projects and goals, as though the best of human effort--that which goes to remake the world (in any sense you wish to give the term except the artistic one)--should, by its nature, be a shared undertaking.'' Too often, Brosman's enterprise (ostensibly an exploration of human intellectual endeavor) lapses into literary elitism, wherein she quotes the masters to excess (principally Montaigne, Proust, and Gide) while her personal narrative flounders. And in her contribution to the gender war, ``On Men and Women,'' an insistence on portraying men as slobs and women as sensitive collectors of bric-a-brac contributes substantive evidence of just how archaic her viewpoint is. On men who belie masculine stereotypes: ``This white-wine-and-quiche set is not my type. After all, I am a woman; I can make a sauce myself.'' Rigorous, but as offputting as a fussy aunt; Brosman's white- glove treatment of morality and aesthetics will appeal chiefly to academics, didacts, and makers of sauces. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Book Description Louisiana State University Press, 1994. Leather Bound. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0807118745