Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Howard Nemerov’s scrutiny of the relationship between everyday living and the creative process is presented in two books and a coda. Book 1 purports to be the journal of Felix Ledger, a novelist struggling with writer’s block; it is organized in cryptic paragraphs titled “reflexions” and alphabetized A through J. This format is abandoned after some fifty pages for book 2, 130 pages of journal entries in which Nemerov drops the mask of Felix Ledger and openly probes his own psyche. After his father’s death, Nemerov copes with his wife’s pregnancy and seeks to make sense out of dreams, travel, family memories, friendships, and creativity and literary form. “The Pond,” a meditative poem of more than one hundred lines, concludes the volume.

In book 1, Felix Ledger addresses the various fears that can keep a novelist from writing. Ledger discusses the fear of what others may think, the fear of offending colleagues, family, and friends in the portrayal of character. He also discusses the deeper fear of what one thinks oneself, the anxiety of not satisfying one’s own sense of what art is. Once the aspiring novelist has overcome his anxieties of beginning and his aversion to the protracted labor a novel entails (complicated in Ledger’s case by a predilection for writing poems), he still must struggle daily with the ghosts of memory and strive to construct a viable narrative. Ledger conceives of a plot about a young lady who is rescued from drowning by a stranger. She lies to him that she was attempting suicide in order to make herself more appealing to him, lures him into marriage, but then discovers that she cannot endure being married to him.

Ledger is concerned about how he can proceed with his novel without offending others, how he can...

(The entire section is 726 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Bartholomay, Julia A. The Shield of Perseus: The Vision and Imagination of Howard Nemerov, 1972.

Duncan, Bowie, ed. The Critical Reception of Howard Nemerov: A Selection of Essays and a Bibliography, 1971.

Labrie, Ross. Howard Nemerov, 1980.

Meinke, Peter. Howard Nemerov, 1968.

Mills, William. The Stillness in Moving Things: The World of Howard Nemerov, 1975.