E. R. Baxter III - "Indirect memoir" via cut-up method, a rich fabric of familiar and unappreciated histories mingled with the personal, from ancient cave paintings to 1960s mimeographed poetry, the massacre of the buffalo to the manufacture of shredded wheat cereal, and all-points in-between


E. R. Baxter III, Niagara Digressions, Starcherone Books, 2012.


"It took me seventy years to write Niagara Digressions," says E. R. Baxter III, a lifelong resident of Niagara County. Niagara Digressions is an "indirect memoir" via cut-up method, a rich fabric of familiar and unappreciated histories mingled with the personal, from ancient cave paintings to 1960s mimeographed poetry, the massacre of the buffalo to the manufacture of shredded wheat cereal, and all-points in-between.
As well, it is a naturalist's meditation on land as the canvas upon which all the stories are painted. Everybody thinks they know Niagara, but not this Niagara. E. R. Baxter III is a tour guide who knows the indirect path offers the best views."

"If readers can be sensitive enough to absorb its complexities, they can also absorb its riches, and discover, as this book suggests, that they "can spread-eagle themselves on the ground and feel the earth's slow revolving and, simultaneously, here in Western New York, its rebounding, too, from its compression of thousands of years under ice." - Eric Gansworth

"Bob Baxter is a Niagara treasure. In telling his own story, he tells the story of place that, like him, can be amusing, lyrical, dark and deeply profound. Niagara Digressions is filled with his dry wit, but is also suffused with real love for his lifelong home." - Ginger Strand

"Baxter is one of those people who need only one name like Thor. Him with his big beard and cigarette smoking smoke wafting up like a white thunderstorm, and his heavy work shirt white and black checked, and his eyes piercing out with his intelligent cigarette voice deep as the old woods. And he has a herd of beef cattle and knew mimeo royalty like d. a. levy and tangled with politicians to give the Niagara River back to people. This is the book. 'Everything is connected.' This prose is a life’s work of writing the pattern of living." - Michael Basinski

"In this ponderous collection of musings set against a western New York backdrop, Baxter flits from billboards, birds, and Buffalo to pencils and porcupines, connecting his subjects in often tenuous and tedious ways. In one section, Baxter, professor emeritus of English at Niagara County Community College, refers to French surrealist Tristan Tzara’s (1896–1963) “cut-up” technique of writing poetry and author Laurence Sterne’s (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy) thinking on the free association of ideas to explain the structure of his memoir. Certain sections are rewarding—for instance, a leap from Baxter’s own attraction to animal bones to a lovely consideration of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art and death. Although the Niagara region figures prominently in Baxter’s stories, along with a great deal of hunting imagery, his concerns are existential, touching on self-awareness and human potential." - Publishers Weekly

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