Although I have never had the pleasure of meeting the lady, I particularly enjoy the reviews of Carolyn See and would like to see a collection of those reviews turned into a book. She must be a very stimulating person to be with. She has a special style all her own. I have often read a review without noting the byline and knew after a few paragraphs that it had to be Carolyn See. Yet, despite her distinctive style, which displays wit, elegance of expression and a wealth of background knowledge, each review has a flavor of its own, dictated no doubt by the subject-matter. She is sometimes wryly critical of a writer, but never mean, and always helps him or her out with some good advice, if they have the wit to take it.
G. MERLE BERGMAN
Critiquing a Critique
In her rough dismissal of Carolyn Doty's "What She Told Him" (Book Review, Feb. 3), reviewer Doris Grumbach oddly measures the work against premises appropriate to 19th-Century romanticism, complaining that Doty's novel is "synthetic rather than organic," and cares nothing for "natural parts . . . natural richness." For more than a century (Schlegel, Proust, etc.), the organic metaphor, with its pleasurably mystifying sense of coherence and wholeness, has been under attack by a literature that calls attention to the artifice of its own and our condition. Yet, this well-established modernist critique seems lost on Grumbach, who frets that "Instead of expanding with a fine and natural richness, (the novel's narrative elements) contract upon their own artificiality." Doty's novel, in fact, carefully investigates the complexity of artifice in the culture and the psyche: Grumbach's 19th-Century organic metaphor is one of its targets, not its touchstone.