Kenneth Burke

Softcover, 448 pages
ISBN 1-57423-201-0

Hardcover, 448 pages
ISBN 1-57423-202-9

Here & Elsewhere: The Collected Fiction of
Kenneth Burke
introduction by Denis Donoghue

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Before he turned to criticism and became, in the words of Daniel Aaron, “our American Coleridge,” Kenneth Burke was a writer of fiction. His avant-garde short stories were unlike any other fiction of the 1920s; indeed, stories even remotely like them would not come along for decades. Not for Burke the stripped-down language of Hemingway or the topical social criticism of Fitzgerald; instead he was intent on constructing rhetorically gorgeous essay-stories that anticipated (by forty years) the narrative techniques of Calvino and William H. Gass. More precisely, Burke appropriated for modernism the forgotten formal modes – and the comic verve – of Tristram Shandy and The Anatomy of Melancholy.

Burke’s narrators are thinkers, not doers; they lament, rejoice, beseech, admonish, aphorize, and inveigh in the manner of a Greenwich Village Samuel Johnson. “Between the arias,” as it were, they begin to reveal themselves and their motives, their characters and their situations. “The exciting thing,” says Denis Donoghue about Burke’s stories, “is that the sentences are internally so eventful that the uneventfulness of the ‘whole’ is a delusion. [They] are like the human body when it seems to be doing nothing...but all the time the internal life is throbbing and buzzing, all the organs at ‘full throttle.’ ”

Here & Elsewhere collects, for the first time in one volume, all of Burke’s fiction. The centerpiece is the short novel Towards a Better Life (1932, revised 1966), which Mr. Donoghue calls “one of my favorite books, [full of] sentences so luminously composed that I could be easily persuaded that style is everything.” Here too are 23 short stories – the entire contents of The White Oxen (1924, expanded 1968) plus three prose "exercises" and a previously uncollected tale. Burke’s stories show, in the words of the TLS, “what a man can do [in] the music of ideas...They take their stand on the last ditch: imagination, verve, intensity, style.”

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