"The 44 penetrating essays in this collection are a delight to read, revealing once again that Robert Coles is a clear-visioned thinker, a nonobfuscating critic of the social order and a delver into complex psychological realms of the human condition that plods ahead as best it can in what he refers to as 'this confused, tormented century.'"—New York Times Book Review
"The essays presented here—which range from Dickens and Kafka to Southern literature and, finally, to Williams himself—are sympathetic, humane reflections on how literature teaches us to live our lives, to love, to endure."—Virginia Quarterly Review
"[In this collection, Coles] brings not only an impressive literary sensibility but also original psychological insights that expand appreciation of even the most well-known writers…Readers will find much to delight and provoke them in this collection, further evidence of Coles' perceptive, peripatetic intellect."—Kirkus Reviews
Trained as a child psychiatrist, Robert Coles began reading and writing literature while still a student, when he was advised by poet William Carlos Williams to "pour himself into books and come up with some thoughts about them." In this splendid volume of essays and reviews, Coles takes this advice to heart as he examines writers as diverse as the centuries and places that divide them yet alike in their depth of moral consciousness.
Breaking his discussion into chronological and thematic periods, Coles considers the Victorian writers George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and the Brownings. He writes about twentieth-century European and American novelists George Orwell, Jerzy Kosinski, Walker Percy, Ann Cornelisen, and others. And he concludes his discussion of prose writers with a look at regional authors Wright Morris, Cormac McCarthy, John Fox, Jr., and Flannery O'Connor.
Coles also brings his penetrating, resonant inquiry to poets Ezra Pound, James Wright, William Stafford, Muriel Rukeyser, and many more. His concluding section, beginning with "Thank You, Dr. Williams," is a series of essays about Williams' stories and poems and Coles' relationship with this exceptional poet, doctor, and fellow writer.
For Robert Coles, studying literature is a means by which each of us can take a demanding look at ourselves and our society and see what we are and what we may become. These essays, full of warmth, unnerving realism, and a search for truth, will appeal to all dedicated readers and students of the human scene.