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Goshen Public Library and Historical Society

Across the Reference Desk

by Janet Hamill

September 1, 1999

A collection by one of the most original writers to appear in years is presently on the new fiction shelves at the Goshen Public Library and Historical Society. The stories in Hectic Ethics by Francisco Hinojosa are so marvelously ironic and spare that they leave the effect on the reader of a lucid sting by a bee who injects benign fluid into the blood. It's similar in effect to the short fiction of Julio Cortazar, one of Hinojosa's brilliant Latin American predecessors. Like Cortazar, Hinojosa is preoccupied with the irony of the hunan condition. But whereas the Argentinean's irony is often dark and twisted, Hinojosa's Mexican-born irony abounds with good humor and his twists of fate are hysterical. In stories such as An Example of Beauty, The Creation, and Abbreviated Memoirs of a Good-hearted Person you will find yourself laughing out loud at the plausible and implausible predicaments of a famous painter, God, and a species particular to Latin America, the artist-politician. Things happen, even to the creator, in a seemingly logical and a natural way, but the surreal is always riding, mercilessly, beneath the surface. Minojosa can be biting in his observations of being and society, yet he manages to accompany his sardonic vision with the sweet ingredients of a spoon-fed desert. It's no wonder that he received his initial acclaim as the author of numerous children's books.

New to the shelves of current non-fiction at the library is Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself by Jerome Loving. This scrupulously researched biography of the Poet of Democracy is the first substantial contribution to Whitman scholarship in over forty years. Making use of recently unearthed archival evidence and newspaper writings, Loving presents the most thorough portrait of the Poet to date. Described with care and lucidity is the carnal, cerebral, and spiritual Whitman. The great egotist, who felt that there was "no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones," emerges here, as well as the compassionate "wound dresser" of the Civil War, the complex family patriarch, and champion of male-male love. Almost every chapter presents material previously unknown or unavailable. Much light is shed light on Whitman's elusive early years-his unhappy career as a Long Island teacher and happy involvement in the newspaper trade of mid-century Brooklyn and 'Mannahatta"--and his relationships with contemporary literary champions and adversaries. More than one hundred years after his death, Leaves of Grass remains the most vibrant and original contributions to American poetry. Loving's critical biography provides ample reason for it's high position, as well as its author's legend as "the universal self."

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