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August 10, 1984 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1984-08-10

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Marion Fay
by Anthony Trollope; edited
by R. H. Super
University of Michigan Press,
451 pp, $25
Anthony Trollope, the British
novelist, is remembered for such novels
as The Warden and Barchester Towers.
A University professor of English has
edited the heavily flawed manuscript of
another Trollope novel, Marion Fay,
and the University of Michigan Press is
publishing the novel, which had been
out of print for nearly a century.
R. H. Super's involvement with
Marion Fay stemmed from the resear-
ch on Trollope's life he is currently
engaged in. (The research will
culminate in Super's biography of
Trollpe) Super, the author of Trollope
in the Post Office, was interested in the
novel because it relates more closely
than Trollope's other works to his in-
volvement with that branch of the
British civil service. When he was
studying the manuscript at the Prin-
ceton University Library, he
recognized an opportunity to get the
novel back in print. The last edition of
Marion Fay was published in 1884.
"The people at the University of
Michigan Press had published my
earlier book on Trollope," Super ex-
plained. "I contacted them and told
them that I edit the manuscript, and
that it was a fine novel. They told me
that if I thought it was good they would
certainly publish it. So I took on the
Comparing the two published editions
with the manuscript, Super prepared a
revised text. There were problems.
Trollope's handwriting was very poor,
and the typesetter simply could not
decipher it in places. Compounding this
difficulty was the fact that Trollope
neglected to read the returned proofs.
"He was writing something else by
then. He was essentially pushing the job
off on someone else," Super noted.
The result is a text riddled with
errors. Super caught five hundred
misspellings and more than that many
syntactical inconsistencies. "I should
wonder about the current editions of
other Trollope, mostly reprints from
the same period," said Super. He
discusses the revisions of the text in an
essay, separate from the literary and
biographical preface which he also con-
Interest in Trollpe seems to have in-
creased in the recent past. The 1978
BBC production fo "The Pallisers,"
which sliced across Trollope to portray
characters who reoccur in several
novels, may have stimulated renewed
attention to Trollope studies. Another
production, of Barchester Towers, is
scheduled. There is a bookseller in
Racine, Wisconsin, who deals ex-
clusively in Trollope's fiction and
related literature; this shop owner or-
dered (and sold) 400 special paper
editons of Marion Fay. This issue is a
centenary republication of the novel,
first published in 1882. Super labeled
the observance as accidental and
tangential to his research, but added
that he hoped this fact would give the
novel public relations value.
The novel itself is big and complex
in a characteristically Victorian
fashion. George Eliot's Middlemarch,
written a decade earlier, might be a
good parallel example. There is an
1 emphasis upon providing character
interaction from a variety of class per-
spectives. There is humor, of both the
"high" and "low" types. Trollope

creates a central plot, interwoven with
smaller narratives, which keys around
the case of tuberculosis contracted by
the title character. Four of Trollope's
five siblings died of that disease, as
Super mentions in his preface.
The University Press and Super have
brought out a fine edition of the novel,
well made and containing the original
serial illustrations of 1881 by William
Small. Another blow has been struck in
the ongoing academic battle to reclaim
and identify important unpublished
works of literature. Congratulations
are in order. - Dave Paton
Shaker, Why Don't You
By Maya Angelou
Random House, 44 pp., $7.95
At times Maya Angelou's poetry in
Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? can be
sassy, knowing, and amusing, but
overall, I was disappointed by this, her
fourth volume of poetry.
While the woman Maya Angelou is
fascinating, and her autobiographies
(e.g., the well-known I Know Why the
Caged Bird Sings, 1969) are cap-
tivating, vivacious works of art, her ex-
traordinary and myriad talents do not
always extend to her poetry.
The worst of her poems are simplistic
in style and sentiment-sing-song
poems with punchlines. (Imagine the
poetry of a contemporary black, female
A.E. Houseman.) I do not like such
poetry. And suffice it to say, that the
majority of her poems in Shaker, Why
Don't You Sing? are of this sort.
However, several poems stand out,
especially "A Georgia Song," "A
Plagued Journey," and "Family Af-
fairs." Also "Awaking in New York,"
"Caged Bird," and "Brief Innocence"
are favorites of mine from this volume.
In "A Georgia Song" she writes: "We
swallow the odors of Southern
cities,/Fat back boiled to sub-
mission,/Tender evening poignancies
of/Magnolia and the great green/Smell
of fresh sweat/...Sing me to sleep
Savannah./...Remember our days,
Some of her most powerful images
are of the South, of "...the blood-red
clay,/Wet still with an-
cient/Wrongs..."; and of dreams
sustained and crushed: "Oh Atlanta, oh
deep, and/Once lost city,/Chant for us a
new song. A song/Of Southern peace."
"A Plagued Journey" is a poem
about daylight and hope, and darkness
and gloom: "There is no warning rattle
at the door/nor heavy feet to stomp the
foyer boards./Safe in the dark prison, I
know that/light slides over/the
fingered work of a toothless/woman in
Pakistan." Day passes, "hope fades,"
night descends.
In "Family Affairs" she addresses
white women and by implication, the
Feminist Movement, in a valid, angry
poem. She writes: "Tired now of
pedestal existence/For fear of
flying/And vertigo, you descend/And
step lightly over/My centuries of
horror/And take my hand,/Smiling call
me Sister.
"Sister, accept/that I must wait
a/While. Allow an age/of dust to
fill/Ruts left on my/Beach in Africa."
"Family Affairs," and works of this
calibre, are poems I will turn to again
and again, poems undoubtedly that
earned Maya Angelou the recognition
her many talents demand.
-Pat Willacker

The Michigan Daily - Friday, August 10, 1984-- Page i
"Gimmea D
Gimme an A
Gimme an I. L...Y
that old college try.
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