Judith Leet Kathleen Wiegner - Essay

Kathleen Wiegner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In her poem, "The Enthusiast," Judith Leet describes a man whose enthusiasm for a lady he has seen leads him to throw himself under the wheels of her car. She does not stop. In many respects the characters in Leet's book, Pleasure Seeker's Guide … have this same need for the extravagant, the need to break through the confines of expected behavior. And their rewards are equally disappointing….

"The Pleasure Seekers" are … people who know what they want and will not give in gracefully….

Leet presents her stories (and they really are stories in the tradition of Chaucer and Browning) in a marvelously detached, and often humorous manner. Even the characters who address us directly have a kind of detached resignation to their fate which is echoed by the woman who tells her sad story in "The White Tower" (fittingly subtitled, "A Novel in the Form of a Poem"): "In a sense, I am above disaster." The voices sound genuine, I suspect, because we have heard them before in the voices of our friends who have lived through a particularly awful experience and now can tell it as if it had happened to someone else. There is even a certain pleasure in their voices which comes from having lived through something extraordinary while the rest of us were mucking around in our ordinary lives. In this sense Leet's characters are admirable in their foolishness because they appear to find pleasure in it or perhaps because Leet's own perspective is one of bemusement. (p. 42)

Kathleen Wiegner, in The American Poetry Review (copyright © 1976 by World Poetry, Inc.; reprinted by permission of Kathleen Wiegner), September-October, 1976.