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This review is taken from PN Review 125, Volume 25 Number 3, January - February 1999.


In a review in The New Criterion of Frederick Seidel's Going Fast, William Logan criticizes Seidel's compulsive name- and brand-name- dropping. Seidel's poetry, Logan argues, is the functional equivalent of cocktail party chatter among particularly snobbish and self-absorbed trans-Atlantic dorées. Logan sees Seidel as a poetic sell-out to consumer capitalism, one whose language has corrupted into a pidgin of trend-setting logos (and I don't mean logos): Ducati motorcycles, Lobb shoes, Milanese suit makers, etc. Logan is harsh and I would argue that Seidel is not a shill but a poet unable to maintain any ironic distance, authorially and textually, when charting the effects of hyper-materialism on feelings and behaviour. Seidel is the ravished victim, seduced by his own incantation of exotic products to the point that he cannot resist his own overpowering logocentrism; both man (including the poet) and machine collapse toward fragmented, superficial sensation in which celebrity always trumps tragedy. But whatever his motivations or failings, Seidel provides interesting fuel to the hoary debate over 'Why is there no socialism in America?' to which the answer is usually given, as Going Fast does: abundance. Yet the opposing question, 'Why is there no conservatism in America?' is as interesting - even if usually unasked - and it turns out that William Logan's Vain Empires is in many ways the correlative of Going Fast, a differing effect of the same cause.

William Logan divides his time between Florida and Cambridge (Engl.) and his poems are divided stylistically along ...

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