Saturday, July 24, 2010

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang

Novels about college English professors hold a special place in my reading life. Richard Russo tops the list with Straight Man, and Jim Harrison’s The English Major has a tight hold on second place. This new novel by the director of the Iowa Writers Workshop will surely find its way onto this list.

The story revolves around an intense professor of poetry at a midwestern college. Students fight to get into her class -- even though many are reduced to tears at her caustic comments or her lack of attention. Roman desperately wanted to be her student and receive her approval.

The novel will hold a great deal of interest for aspiring writers, because it thoroughly examines the psychology of writing poetry and the relationships between writers and readers – especially readers who are close to the writer.

One of the drawbacks of reading and reviewing “advance reading copies” is that I can’t quote from the novel. The prose is so fluid and almost magical, I feel as if the words have become a river and they carry me along on a journey of exploration. Pick it up in a bookstore and begin to read the opening pages. You will walk out with a copy.

The only flaw is an occasional penchant for conversations with a level of intensity that made it hard to follow who said what. When I hit one particularly difficult scene, I began to notate “R” for Roman and “B” for Bernard. Despite this minor inconvenience, I strongly recommend this novel due out in September. Before writing this review, I ordered her first two books, Inheritance, a novel, and Hunger, a novella and collection of stories. I can’t wait to read them. 4-1/2 stars

--Chiron, 7/24/10

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