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Echoes of Eden

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

ECHOES OF EDEN is an interesting conglomeration of bits and pieces of pithy sayings from famous authors, portions of poems, portions of letters, and brief excerpts from novels and essays. McNutt centers the collection on the myth of Eden, with many of the selections reflecting on paradise or the lack thereof.

McNutt breaks her book into sections titled “Animals,” “Lovers,” “Eating,” “Eccentrics,” “Artists,” and “Me.” In each section, McNutt places writings germaine to her topics from authors such as John Donne, Randall Jarrell, Bernard Livingston, Francis Watson, Conrad Aiken, and Thomas Traherne. McNutt’s selections are anything but random. She chooses writings that are striking, and in some cases offers biting commentary on the state of humanity.

The writings vary in length. Some may be as short as a few lines while others go on for a couple of pages. In collecting these writings and putting them all in one place, McNutt has allowed her reader insight into the minds of famous writers. We hear their voices on subjects such as favorite pets, ex-girlfriends, eccentrics, and artists struggling to create.

Included in this small volume is a preface explaining the origin of McNutt’s work. She recounts a childhood experience, when she stole an anthology, ANOTHER WORLD THAN THIS. That early foray into the world of literature was the basis of McNutt’s lifelong passion for reading. She recalls the magic of Virgil’s GEORGICS, and the lines “And you will pick off the fragile stalks of the lupin, with its tangle of rattling seedpods” remind her of “forgotten Edens.”

The notion of forgotten Edens is the underlying theme in McNutt’s book. She ties all of the writings to this theme by adding her own personal commentary full of interesting insight. In her commentaries are anecdotes of her own experiences with animals, lovers, eating, eccentrics, and struggling artists. McNutt’s commonplace book is very enjoyable, and is a poignant tribute to people who love words.