More than two dozen essays visit the author's great themes -- family, nature, seizing the day, and the strange goings-on in Carthage, Tennessee
Pickering (English, Univ. of Connecticut), the acclaimed author of numerous books of essays, was the model for Robin Williams's memorable character in Dead Poets Society. These two collections of essays certainly display his erudition, but their appeal stretches far beyond the esoteric or academic. Highly autobiographical, The Best of Pickering offers more than two dozen essays that explore a wide range of his most-beloved themes (e.g., nature, student days, being a parent). His lively imagination pulls the reader from the vividly real to the imaginative as we are introduced to his make-believe world of Carthage. Although somewhat unexpected at first, this whimsical parallel to the everyday quickly becomes comforting and often very amusing. Waltzing the Magpies, which includes previously unpublished essays on a year he spent teaching in Western Australia, focuses on the familial and the natural, and of course, on the cultural differences between Australia and the United States. However, this collection is not so much a chronological travelog as a rambling account of a life broadly similar to Pickering's life as a professor in the United States. In this way, small, peculiar differences are made to stand out in colorful relief. The relaxing pace of life that Pickering enjoyed in Australia is so well conveyed that the reader is lulled into an enjoyable peace. It is evident from both collections that Pickering delights in documenting the minutiae of life. At first this may strike the reader as a little pedantic, but one soon becomes charmed by Pickering's gentle, sometimes gleeful, humor and then frequently moved by his wisdom and thoughtfulness. The writing, while carefully penned and showing great skill, is never pretentious and is entirely suited to the subject matter. Both collections should enjoy a wide interest in both public and academic libraries.-Rebecca Bollen, North Bergen, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.