Compared to What?
Thomas Farber's special gift as a writer is his ability to convey with deceptive simplicity and economy whole ranges of emotional experience. Here, in this luminous mosaic of linked nonfiction stories and meditations, he presents us with a startlingly original, interior view of the writer's life: the intricacies of its methods, of the impulse to story, of the writer's place in society--all that informs and haunts this odd vocation.
"...the ambiguity and irony of good literature, and the honesty of a true confession...[Farber] is neither sentimental nor self-indulgent, but beneath his detached tone lurks a ferocious ternderness, a firm compression.
"...can be read as a rich collection of anecdotes and quotations, delivered with quick, understated wit, as a shrewd, unsentimental, detached essay on this peciliar occupation; or as the confession of a mania, with its eruptions of manic fearlessness and comedy; or as the autobiography of one who has been saved by himself--though this is never quite said--by his craft; and even as a sidelong meditiation on the practical meaning of art, seen unpretentiously in the terms of an American life. "
"I love reading Thomas Farber. It's like listening to a preternaturally articulate, well-read, and inventive person think aloud. Beautifully crafted, his work seems to have complete spontaneity. It's always surprising, like jazz. Compared to What? is especially daring, like the great jazz piece of the same name.
"...pieces of verbal lacery stitched together into a balanced, lovely, delicately patterned whole..."
"...the most unusual manual in quite a while..."
"Farber's unusual stream-of-consciousness style, with interlocking anecdotes flowing together, evokes the writer's life effectively, miraculously avoids sounding pompous...neatly celebrates the joys of writing..."
"..an amiable and lively account of himself at mid-journey....Allusive, anecdotal..also admirably unsententious."
"...not a how-to, but a how-come and what-with. The pieces are witty to profound, sentimental to shrewd... "
"...a wonderfully rich little book...[Farber] is a master of concision."