Loren Eiseley Essayshark
THE LOST NOTEBOOKS OF LOREN EISELEY Edited by Kenneth Heuer. Illustrated. 260 pp. Boston: Little, Brown & Company. $22.95.
JUST before his death in 1977, Loren Eiseley, celebrated for such remarkable books as ''The Immense Journey'' and ''The Night Country,'' asked his wife, Mabel, to destroy the personal notebooks he had kept sporadically since 1953. His good friend and longtime editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, Kenneth Heuer, argued for their preservation. In the end, Mabel compromised by having the notebooks physically dismembered. Pages relating to Eiseley's published works were filed with the original manuscripts. Others were stored in back closets. Still others, deemed unimportant, were burned. Eiseley himself apparently dated few entries, and when the notebooks were scattered no record of pagination or even volume number was kept. To further complicate matters, when Mr. Heuer attempted to reassemble the pages for publication in 1982 much of the material sent from the Eiseley archives at the University of Pennsylvania arrived in a mutilated and jumbled condition.
By a remarkable effort of academic sleuthing, guesswork and deciphering - not unlike the process of reconstructing a disturbed archeological site - Mr. Heuer managed to put together a reasonable facsimile of the original notebooks, from which he drew this ''representative volume.'' Also included in it are items from earlier writings and other material uncovered by Mr. Heuer: animal stories written in childhood, sketches from Eiseley's days as a hobo during the Depression, old family pictures, unpublished poems, portions of an odd unfinished novel about a prehistoric wolf, and letters to and from such literary admirers as W. H. Auden, Howard Nemerov, Lewis Mumford and Ray Bradbury.
Thus, strictly speaking, the selections in this volume are neither lost, nor entirely notebooks, nor even solely by Loren Eiseley. Rather, the book is a collection of Eiseleyana rescued from a bizarre literary diaspora. No doubt Eiseley himself would have appreciated the strangeness of it all, though from a scholarly point of view the result is an odd duck of a volume that is likely to be of more frustration than use to Eiseley scholars. Even given the formidable difficulties faced by Mr. Heuer in the reassembly process, it seems that some attempt at approximate dating and itinerary could have been made as a gloss to the text. (Often the reader is not sure what decade or what region of the country Eiseley is writing in.) Despite its odd gestation and editorial shortcomings, however, this volume contains much that Eiseley devotees will be grateful for, from the useful biographical overviews Mr. Heuer gives at the head of each of its three sections to the extensive and enlightening glimpses it affords into the intellectual and emotional workshop of one of the most original and influential American essayists of this century.
Loren Eiseley, born in Lincoln, Neb., in 1907, was a haunted man who grew up in a haunted house. In such unflinching poems as ''Return to a House,'' he looks back with harrowing honesty on the troubled years of his childhood - dominated by the smothering silence of a stone-deaf, mentally unstable mother - in a home ''where none may grow / Save crookedly by malice from within.'' Like Melville, Eiseley thought of himself, and by extension all mankind, as ''an orphan, a wood child, a changeling,'' a cosmic outcast born into a world that afforded him no true home. Though his brooding on man's ''aloneness in the universe'' at times became stagy and sentimental, it was never invented for literary purposes, but was bred in his bones during his strange seedtime on the bleak plains of Nebraska. His pessimism, I think, was not simply idiosyncratic; it represents a curious, though still not widely recognized, Midwestern fascination with death and solitude. Not Mark Twain but Willa Cather and O. E. Rolvaag are Eiseley's spiritual forebears. The literature of the American plains is largely a literature of suffering, madness, purification by fire and bones under the sun, failed and buried lives; Eiseley became its first spokesman in the academic world.Continue reading the main story
Каким временем мы располагаем. - У нас есть около часа, - сказал Джабба. - Достаточно, чтобы созвать пресс-конференцию и все выложить.