Susan Fromberg Schaeffer is that rarity: a fine novelist and poet. Where others pad slim and fragile volumes with material better kept from a candid world, this prolific author fills a 144-page book in which each poem exemplifies intelligence heightened and transmitted through vivid imagination, brilliant imagery, and remarkable formal integrity. How she can sustain such power, poem after poem, makes one marvel at her craft. Granite Lady comprises an immense range of subjects in an exceptional variety of treatments. She dramatizes growing up with fear, from the child's point-of-view; growing old and the state of senility; the quiet horrors of death, before and after the grave; the terrors of loss,...
(The entire section is 467 words.)
Carol J. Allen
[Alphabet for the Lost Years] has two distinct parts although formally there are three sections in the volume. The first and more successful contains meditations on objects and emotions from the Arch to the Zzz of bees and sleepers. The focus on abstractions gives this alphabet an intellectual detachment that mutes the "cry of the human" heard in much contemporary poetry. No first-person pronouns here, and yet there is a mind at work and anguish, however disguised, in poems on Dementia, Hate, Jealousy…. The language is spare, the short lines grouped in couplets or triplets. But their control is balanced and occasionally upset by dependence on sound effects…. The second half of the book collects more...
(The entire section is 209 words.)
Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Time in Its Flight is built around the marriage of Edna, a spirited Boston teen-ager of quite original attitudes, and the morose but passionate John Steele, a dedicated Vermont country doctor.
Set in the latter half of the past century, the book is a chronicle of the burgeoning Steele family in its passages through joy and adversity, births, illnesses, and death, with accompanying probes into the meaning of time, change, mortality, and other imponderables. When these large themes are embodied in action or event, the results are admirable, but they are too often pursued in an expository, didactic manner.
Schaeffer has a teeming imagination, and scatters ideas, anecdotes, and...
(The entire section is 214 words.)
"Time in Its Flight" illustrates Tolstoy's idea about happy families. They are boring.
Not that Susan Fromberg Schaeffer intends it. She livens things up with epidemics, marriages, a suicide by hanging, insanity, a murder trial, philosophy via daguerreotypes, reports of the American Civil War and 20 or 30 deaths. None of this helps much. Mrs. Schaeffer, who did better with "Anya" and "Falling," is a prisoner of her romantic fatalism….
"Time in Its Flight" will satisfy if you need to kill time or want to know how the rural rich once lived in America. But it's a poor intellectual companion. It's capriciously organized and confusing without purpose. Susan Schaeffer's heroes speculate...
(The entire section is 190 words.)