Pages from a Cold Island by Frederick Exley

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Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

"The death of literature" makes for a less overt theme than did that of A Fan's Notes, the "death of the American Dream." Moreover, Exley's tone in this "memoir" is less shrill and angry than before, more simpering, stuttering, almost resigned. With the eloquent markings of an elegy, the author of Pages from a Cold Island laments the loss of what he holds most dear: the (perceived) ability of literature to move the masses and, specifically, the literature — e.g., Memoirs of Hecate County — of place and time. Kroll says: "Exley's mind — full of jabber about Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters, the Kennedys, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe — is the mind of that stupefied cyborg who is our fellow citizen and the man in the mirror. By evoking himself as the raunchy, twitchy, paranoid lumpen-creature that he perhaps is, he evokes a lumpen-humanity toward which perhaps we are all drifting".