Sheer Fiction Vols. 1 - 4
Four clothbound volumes, 854 pages, 6x9", sewn bindings, uniform jackets.
WEBSITE EXCLUSIVE. Save $16 by buying the complete hardcover set. Only ten complete sets are still available of ALL FOUR MATCHING CLOTHBOUND VOLUMES OF SHEER FICTION
Included in Volume Four is an index to the entire series.
VOLUME ONE: six essays and thirty-nine reviews consider the works of such writers as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Herman Hesse, Hermann Broch, Christa Wolf and Blaise Cendrars. An essential book for lovers of the twentieth-century novel.
VOLUME TWO: Paul West examines the subtleties of Djuna Barnes' almost devilish wit, the Aeschylean tones of Broadway's Les Miserables, and the ideas binding Dickens and Dostoevesky to Faulkner. On the briefer side, West reviews some 50 novels by such diverse authors as Turgenev, J.R.R. Tolkein, Cortazar, Amado, Marie-Claire Blais, Janet Frame, Anthony Burgess, Anita Desai, Katherine Dunn, George Garrett, Kurt Vonnegut, J.R. Salamanca, Stanley Elkin, and more.
VOLUME THREE: A baker's dozen of essays -- with such intriguing titles as "Remembrance of Things Proust," "Middle River Stump Jump," "A Vision of Bright Cannon-Fodder," "Tan Salaam and the Aga Khan," and "Thomas Mann, Englishman" -- along with an ample section of quick takes on Abish, Barth, Vollmann, Alvarez, Genet, Beckett, Lessing, Ghose, and some twenty more. As with his earlier volumes of Sheer Fiction, half the pleasure of reading West's belles lettres is the discovery of several writers' works you've never read, and which you're thereafter compelled to plunge into with abandon. The other half, of course, is the pleasure of reading a master stylist with language and wit at his complete command.
VOLUME FOUR: This fourth and final installment begins with two paeans for departed friends—the novelist John Hawkes and the astronomer Carl Sagan—and a review of a book about famous literary suicides. Then West immediately launches into a lengthy cross-examination of Nobel Prize novelist J.M. Coetzee's curious employment of West himself as a character in the novel Elizabeth Costello. That alone is worth the ticket. But the sixteen essays which follow record the distances between mimetic projection of fictive personae and the "visionary plunge into what cannot be kept out of the mind"—dalliance, in other words, versus necessity. Here, predictably, West is at his best. Subjects range from an epic poem of the Titanic to the teaching of Samuel Beckett, and from a meeting with Borges to the complexities of Faulkner. West considers the future of the novel, conducts inquiries of the works of William Gass and Bradford Morrow, and offers asides about his own working methods and how he came to write certain of his books. Fittingly, Sheer Fiction IV includes an extensive index to all four volumes.
"In his many works of fiction, memoir, and criticism, West proves himself to be a writer blessed with a cheerfully mordant wit, an acrobatic way with words, ebullient learnedness, and a deep if wry perception of the human condition. Each previous Sheer Fiction volume has offered pleasure, revelation, and provocation, and now, in West's fourth collection of biting literary essays, he again covers a remarkable breadth and complexity of terrain...." — Booklist, review by Donna Seaman
"Thorough, passionate, opinionated—West never lets his judgments interfere with his considerable ability to evoke the texture and character of the work under review." --Washington Post Book World
"As usual, West's style is provocatively intelligent and his ideas direct and responsive to the most pertinent questions about literature."--The Star-Ledger
"With wit, erudition, and an expansive intellect, West argues for fiction that creatively manipulates its material rather than passively reflecting it.… Sheer Fiction demands the attention of any reader seriously interested in the purposes of fiction."--Wilson Library Bulletin
"An excellent field guide to numerous little-known subspecies of the modern novel from a tireless and entertaining observer." — Review of Contemporary Fiction