Pain Without Gain by Harold K. Bush

Pain Without Gain

The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion
Knopf, 2005
(240 pages, $23.95, hardcover)

reviewed by Harold K. Bush

Mark Twain once said: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.” But some of our most influential people have allowed themselves to become the most naked of people. The prophets all stood naked before God; Augustine was most poetic as he unclothed himself; and Emily Dickinson, hidden most of the time behind her bedroom door, revealed her deepest secrets in her majestic verse. The glory of transparency is why so much of Walt Whitman’s revolutionary poetry of the 1850s involved, scandalously enough, naked human bodies, and why many of Flannery O’Connor’s characters learn the truth at the moment of exposure.

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Harold K. Bush teaches English at Saint Louis University. His newest book, Mark Twain and the Spiritual Crisis of His Age, will appear in the fall of 2006.

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