Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The War Between The Tates --- Alison Lurie

I suppose if one must read one Alison Lurie book, it would be The War Between the Tates.  

As I read more and more of her work, I realize that she can only write with great skill about academics or writers or both and their wives.  In The War Between the Tates she most fully realizes all the other versions of this theme she has worked out in novels and short stories.

Lurie appears to be one of those literal writers who must draw upon her real life in order to create.  Her imaginative capacity is severely impaired.  Just look at the thin collection of stories, promisingly titled Women and Ghosts.  She writes these with a singular lack of flair or talent.  It is as if the writer of Tates and the teller of ghost stories are two different writers.

This does not mean that one should not read and enjoy The War Between the Tates.  It has gorgeously written, penetrating prose, which work to examine all the painstaking elements of a marriage coming apart in the throes of the counter-culture.

For Cornell people it is a special treat, since Cornith University is so clearly Cornell University.  Even over forty years later the novel still captures the atmosphere and shades of the place with Lurie taught for many years.

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