a long the riverrun (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Before his death on May 13, 1987, Richard Ellmann completed work on what was soon to become his second critically acclaimed biography, of Oscar Wilde, prepared a revised edition of his first, on James Joyce, and somehow found time to begin planning the collection of essays under review here, a long the riverrun. The title, although apparently provided by the publisher, is nevertheless apt, conflating the last words of James Joyce’s last novel, Finnegans Wake (1939) and its first, those which conclude with those which begin, in much the same way the essays collected here, at the very end of Ellmann’s life, range over very nearly the entire length of his exemplary career. Of the twenty essays, all but one have been previously published and, again, all but one concern the great modernist writers—and their contemporaries and immediate predecessors—to whom Ellmann devoted himself over the past half-century. Although the very earliest pieces, from the 1950’s, now appear rather dated—less, however, in content than in approach—all manage to be formidably erudite without ever becoming dully pedantic; all are marked by a graciousness of style, a generosity of spirit, and a knack for making the perfect, often provocative summary statement: “’What distinguished decadence from corruption or philistinism was that it could be discussed with relish as well as concern.” The essays also exhibit Ellmann’s genius for discerning connections and...
(The entire section is 2222 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Booklist. LXXXV, March 1, 1989, p.1086.
Boston Globe. April 5, 1989, p.40.
Contemporary Review. CCLIII, December, 1988, p.253.
Kirkus Reviews. LVII, January 15, 1989, p.99.
Library Journal. CXIV, February 15, 1989, p.158.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIV, March 19, 1989, p.21.
The Observer. October 2, 1988, p.43.
Publishers Weekly CCXXXV, January 27, 1989, p.46.
The Times Literary Supplement. November 4, 1988, p.1234
The Wall Street Journal. May 26, 1989, p. A9.
The Washington Post Book World. XIX, March 26, 1989, p.10.
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