Second review of From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin

 Review by Anthony Metivier

Henry Whittlesey has collected several literary adaptations under the rubric of "transposition." This fascinating aesthetic concept, which is not without its political undertones, serves to teach us a great deal about what literature is, particulary in terms of form, content and reception. As he discusses in the introduction, there are many kinds of adaptation, but least common of all is the attempt to maintain formal considerations while infusing the content with the new.

Whittlesey bears a certain literary kinship with Ezra Pound whose first and second Cantos also played with his forebears in a similar manner (before giving way to a rather different aesthetic round about canto five). This makes the work in "From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin" especially precious, and oddly enough appears about 100 years after Pound and certain pals like T.S. Eliot were shoring the shards and fragments of their botched generation gone bad in the aesthetic teeth (if I may pilfer and fiddle with some of their lines).

But the actual writing style presented by Whittlesey and his co-authors presents something altogether different. Here we find beautiful literature that struggles for the pleasure only regular sentences made beautiful can create. Regardless of how this writing was made, it is good writing. Even without any concept of the "The Nose," Whittlesey's "transposition" goes far beyond theory. It is art, but of the best kind: it is entertainment that stands strong outside the ken of its guiding theorems.

Therefore, I think this book will appeal to many readers, both those with a yearning for literary experiments based on restraint, those who enjoy adaptations and those who simply like a good yarn. I recommend this book highly to anyone who fits these categories.

 From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian stories transposed to modern-day America
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