A review of Music from the Lake and Other Essays by Catharine Savage Brosman (Chronicles Press, 2017).
Catharine Savage Brosman is a treasure of Southern literature.
Although much of her work shows her solid Colorado Rocky Mountain
upbringing, somehow I do not think she will mind being placed in
Southern literature. Most of her career was spent in New Orleans and
she now lives in Houston. More importantly, her depth of perception and
her pietas toward Creation show a spirit akin to the greatest Southern
Brosman resembles the Southern greats in another way. Like Poe,
Simms, Warren, Garrett, Chappell, Berry, she is not only marvelously
productive but also marvelously versatile—poetry, essays, and literary
criticism and history. While she is distinguished as poet and
essayist, her scholarship in French literature (as Professor of
French at Tulane) is of an amount and quality that puts 99 per cent of
the current American professoriate to shame. (Although these days such
achievement is likely to provoke disguised resentment rather than
Further for my Southern argument: Brosman’s books that immediately precede Music from the Lake
are Louisiana Creole Literature: A Historical Study
and Southwestern Women Writers and the Vision of Goodness.
rest my case except to say that it has long been my fancy that
Southerners are French and Yankees are German. If that is so, there is
no doubt where she fits.
Music in the Lake and Other Essays
is a wonderful exercise in civilized
reminiscent of the great quarterlies of earlier times. It
gracefully bestows on the reader an experience that is at the same time
serious and entertaining. Personal experiences and reflections
accompany great learning lightly worn and inimitable discussions of
the decline of contemporary culture. The multiple aspects of that
decline may be said to be the theme of the work.
I have read and do read far too many books. But I am happy indeed that this one did not pass me by.