R(ussell) G. Vliet Peter Glassman - Essay

Peter Glassman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

R. G. Vliet happily is one of our most civilized writers, and … [Solitudes is] his most accomplished and promising work. Set in Texas in the early 1880's, Solitudes concerns what Vliet calls "wildness," a quality of spontaneity and animal abandon which seems to this poet who writes novels sexually arousing, closely related to both sanity and pathology, and, if profoundly dangerous, morally compelling. The novel's hero, Claiborne (or Claib) Sanderlin, is the book's most wild creature. Inarticulately intelligent, barely verbal, superbly responsive to the designs of the world, the word, and his own personality, Claib proposes himself as a more or less sublime Clint Eastwood. In Eastwood's classically American way Claib reduces himself to the sum of his appetites and functions. Lust, hunger, fatigue, satiety shape the curve of his experience and expectations. Like Eastwood's persona he understands that "the thing is to keep movin'." Move Claib does: Solitudes is built about the long and lyric series of its hero's grazing migrations. A land animal gifted with catholic expertise, Claib traverses whole tracts of space which he does not expropriate but rather fills with his own thought and severely efficient use. As he moves, this exquisitely self-aware high plains drifter organizes a stunning meditation upon the nation's nature, a bold and lovely, semantically cinematic discourse upon the character of our country's countryside,...

(The entire section is 545 words.)