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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 2, Volume 4 Number 2, January - March 1978.

TWO IN ONE Allen Tate, Memories & Essays Old and New, 1926-1974, Carcanet, £4.80.

The memories and essays here collected form distinct parts of this book, almost two little books in one cover; each part has, even, its separate dedication.

The 'memories' comprise ten pieces-memoirs, recollections, homages-of which the first was written in 1942 and the latest in 1974. The subjects include Eliot, Faulkner, St-John Perse and Sylvia Beach and Tate's own recollections of Paris in the twenties as well as some notes about his family. We are told that the author had originally intended 'to write an entire book of memories', and his reasons for receding from this more ambitious scheme themselves throw an interesting light on the workings of his mind. The reason was that, 'unlike Ernest Hemingway', he couldn't bring himself to tell what was wrong with his friends 'without trying to tell what was wrong with' himself; and this latter task seemed too difficult, as it might to any of us. A characteristic touch of circumspection is the further confession that he 'was unwilling to give the reader the chance to make up his own mind on this slippery matter'. Well, fair enough, but it may be doubted whether such prudence ever, in the end, kept the inquiring or even the impertinent critic-biographer at bay. Truth to tell, no reader of Allen Tate needs to be told that he 'couldn't' let himself 'indulge in the terrible fluidity of self-revelation'; both his virtues and his faults as a writer turn on that inhibition.

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