"A 19th-Century Friend" is a book written by Bruce Craig in the form of a narrative, using a classical sonnet form. Below are copies of reviews which have currently been received through the small press:
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Not much rhyming verse appears in The ICONOCLAST. This is an indication of editorial bias less toward the form than its modern practitioners. Most poets today have little or no command of rhyme (a condition due in part to many poets' disdain of reading and study -- not to blame the poets: the current sensibility is that anything can be mastered in five easy lessons). So it is with delight and pleasure that we have read "A 19th-Century Friend."
One way to determine whether a poet is adept at verse is by noting how smoothly the rhyme is subsumed to the narrative flow. The line ends should not be a distraction, a crack on the sidewalk. Yet they must be capable of arresting our attention and respect when worthy, this being most laudable when given a sly philosophical twist. Mr. Craig not only fulfills these premises, but adds to them by offering a story line full of plot, suspense, and message. (Beautiful cover)
Thanks so much for sending us a copy of your book. You may be very sure we will review it at the first opportunity. The book is a masterpiece of prosody. You never strain for rhyme and the rhythm is very sound. The historical sense is comprehensive. The plot of the narrative poem is excellent. I have nothing but praise for this work.
The "story" behind "A 19th-Century Friend" is richly historical, based on the author's own contact with his old Russian maternal grandfather. I was raised by an Old Czech (Jewish) grandmother myself and can relate to this sort of strong, decisive Slavic influence. The "plot" centers on a Spirit visiting the narrator and telling him about his life as a nobleman on the Russian steppes, a liaison with the wife of an old cavalry major, etc.
If only the whole book were done in blank verse instead of "verse". For me the problem here is a kind of literary-historical "determinism." At the risk of sounding too T. S. Eliotesque (I'm drawing here on an essay called "Tradition and the Individual Talent"), I think it's true that there is a kind of irrevocable, one-way "stream" in literature that cannot be totally reversed. It was "natural" for Shakespeare to write his sonnets in traditional sonnet form, but today, in a very, very post-Whitman world ... it would sound like what it is -- being very purposefully anachronistic. The same, I fear, holds true for Bruce Craig.
Copies of this book may obtained for $10. each (including postage and handling) by using the Order Form. A billing invoice will be sent along with the book. ISBN is 0-966-56140-6. LCCN is 98-090570.
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