Journal of the Fictive Life Essay - Critical Context

Howard Nemerov

Critical Context

Journal of the Fictive Life takes its place among those mid-twentieth century works that are concerned with the self-reflexive nature of literature. Felix Ledger observes, “a fascinating theme . . . debating the extent to which speculation has in the past couple of decades visibly begun to replace art, how much the making challenges artistic interest more than what is made; how art as adventure seems for the present almost to have overthrown the work of art.” Early in book 2, as Nemerov discusses his own dreams in his own voice, he addresses the relationship between state of mind and possible literary achievement:Now this dream occurs in and refers to a period of my life in several respects critical. I am about to be a father once again, fully thirteen years after the first time. Toward the end of my wife’s pregnancy I have been unusually listless about sex, and though her appearance supplies an innocent reason for my want of interest in her I have characteristically had the glum thought that I might be getting a bit past it. And I have been for some time in a (corresponding?) period of artistic impotence, or paralysis, partly involving the choice between poetry and fiction (the two ways again!), a condition which I have been trying to examine in these pages, which may represent in themselves a “third way” of writing, as well as being an attempt to find some third way, probably combining the linguistic powers of poetry with the architectural qualities of the novel.

The “third way” remains conjectural; Nemerov’s power to illuminate...

(The entire section is 641 words.)