In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction, 3rd ed
Damon Knight. 3rd ed., enlarged and extended. Chicago: Advent Publishers, Inc., 1996. xiv + 420 pp. $20.00.
FOR THE MOST PART this is a collection of book reviews, written to deadline for various science fiction magazines, 1952-60, and woven into chapters dealing with such subjects as "The Critics," "Chuckleheads," "Half-Bad Writers," and "Anthologies." Like the earlier editions, the text of this one begins with an Introduction (unchanged) by Anthony Boucher crediting Knight with introducing criticism into professional (science fiction) magazines and ends with a chapter, "What Next?" (expanded and with slightly different perception for each succeeding edition). The total number of chapters rises from twenty-two to thirty-three and the number of pages from 180 to 402. Knight stopped reviewing for magazines in 1960 in a dispute over a review his editor refused to print, of Judith Merrill's The Tomorrow People (here included, pp. 104-105). As a result, his later criticism is less topical and more measured, but still straight-forward, biting, and often--yes--hilarious.
Knight is scholarly but not pedantic, a writer who can cheerfully admit: "I know perfectly well that if I hadn't a review column to do, I never would have got past page 5 . . ." (264). Most reviewers can relate to that--not that we aren't interested in the books we review, but some of our most respected colleagues manage to couch even brilliant literacy insights in very dull language, lengthy footnotes, and overly zealous excursions to previous scholarship. Knight is different, and reading...
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