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Sea Battles On Dry Land

Sea Battles On Dry Land

(1999)
A non fiction book by

 
The late Harold Brodkey made headlines in 1991 upon publication of his 835-page, 27-years-in-the-making epic novel, The Runaway Soul; fortunately for his fans, he'd been turning out enough short stories, journalism, and essays in the interim to mitigate the long, long wait. Sea Battles on Dry Land is a posthumously published collection of essays, many culled from the pages of the New Yorker, that cover such diverse topics as Woody Allen's romantic and legal woes, weather, the AIDS epidemic in New York, and the author's recollections of Frank O'Hara. Divided into sections titled "Celebrity and Politics;" "Wit and Whimsy;" "Life, Love and Sex;" and "Language and Literature," Brodkey's essays, like their subject matter, are a mixed bag ranging from the genuinely insightful to the egregiously self-serving. In "The Roar of the Canon" Brodkey brings considerable critical acumen to his discussion of John O'Hara, pointing out:
He did not work in the form in the ways that Fitzgerald and Hemingway did. He did not pursue any would-be essential social truth or analysis of community in his novels, as Dreiser and Faulkner did in theirs. Perhaps O'Hara knew his own fragility: Hemingway ended a suicide, after all. Perhaps O'Hara gambled ineptly but not suicidally: he stayed in the popular-serious mainstream.
What's more, the writing here is incisive, elegant, and refreshingly free of the kind of excesses on exhibit in a preceding essay, "Frank and Harold," a queasy mix of starstruck name-dropping ("We entered the Village like the Jews into Canaan. Frank and Ashbery and Larry Rivers greeted us") and tedious recollections of long-past sophomoric conversations ("Frank shouted that surrealism was dead. John or Frank shouted that the entire surface of the canvas mattered. John, I think, said that Auden had loosened the girdle of form"). Sea Battles on Dry Land is proof--if we needed it--that when he was good, Brodkey was very, very good, but when he was bad, he was purple. --Alix Wilber



A brilliant, provocative collection of essays, profiles, and criticism, from one of the great literary figures of our time.

Renowned worldwide for his fiction, Harold Brodkey may actually be better known among American readers for his work as an essayist. By turns witty and contemplative, sympathetic and scathing, Brodkey's essays, many of which first appeared in The New Yorker, treat a remarkably broad range of subjects. Whether writing on the New York City subway or country gardens, on presidential politics or haute couture, on Woody Allen or Walter Winchell, Brodkey was a master of the subtle and unexpected observation. Sea Battles on Dry Land gathers the best of Brodkey's essays into a single volume-among them lighthearted "Talk of the Town" pieces, the prophetic "Notes on American Fascism," and a profile of Frank O'Hara, one of the most eloquent portraits of a legendary American writer. Gifted with a capacious and searching intelligence, Brodkey was equally skilled at writing film reviews, celebrity profiles, and erudite discourses on the nature of fiction.

Sea Battles on Dry Land provides some of the finest critical writing of our era and will remain an essential collection for many years to come.

 
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Hardback Editions

April 1999 : USA Hardback
Title: Sea Battles on Dry Land: Essays
Author(s): Harold Brodkey
ISBN: 0-8050-6052-9 / 978-0-8050-6052-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

Paperback Editions

September 2000 : USA Paperback
Title: Sea Battles on Dry Land Essays
Author(s): Harold Brodkey
ISBN: 0-8050-6051-0 / 978-0-8050-6051-5 (USA edition)
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (P)
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   



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