Adoring readers who truly find a place in their hearts for the stories we tell — who among us doesn’t crave this? Even those of us whose projects lie languishing in a drawer must surely pine to have our words seen and cherished. That’s why I love coming across a review that ladles out a generous dose of enthusiasm — it’s just so enlivening and heartening.
Consider Jacqueline Cutler’s review of Palisade Park by Alan Brennert: “A friend, who is an editor and voracious reader asked if I had read anything good lately. We had just ordered drinks, mine a Blue Hawaiian, because it reminded me of a section of this book, and I could not shut up about Palisade Park. It is that wonderful. Then, I hadn’t yet finished. Now that I have, I can say without hesitation: Palisades Park is a perfect novel.”
“A perfect novel” — what higher praise could there for a writer? While Fran Bartkowski, the chair of the English department at Rutgers University – Newark, doesn’t go quite that far, she is a truly devoted reader and teacher who takes “great pleasure” in sharing the work of Philip Roth with her students. It took a while for Roth to “win her over,” but win her did. She was moved by his autobiography, The Facts and “stunned” by the language and wit of The Counterlife. When American Pastoral came along, she was “hooked.”
In summing up Roth’s influence, Fran said that his fiction “will remain for the ages a source of intelligence, wit and a remedy against amnesia about working-class American life in the mid-20th century. It will remain an ongoing encounter with the devices of fiction who many tricks of the trade Roth has perfected and offered for our consideration. He has created so many memorably troubled and troubling characters — young, adolescent, middle-aged or dying.”
What a heartfelt tribute to an author who has labored with enormous discipline to release the teeming figures of his imagination onto the page! As we write, let’s make it our mission to create characters and stories that inspire this kind of enthusiasm and devotion from our very own readers. Write on!