Eugene K. Garber's Metaphysical Tales won the Associated Writing Program's award for short fiction. His stories have been widely published in such journals as Transatlantic Review, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Antaeus, Georgia Review, Sewanee Review, and TriQuarterly and have appeared in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Stories anthologies. He is a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Albany.
In elegant prose, Garber ( Metaphysical Tales ) weaves elaborate, arcane allegories about this country's metamorphosis from young republic to plutocracy, on Americans' worship of power and Mammon, and on the suppression of women in American society. The two main characters are ``the historian,'' a Boston professor, muckraker and reformer modeled on Henry Adams, and his cousin Simms, a self-proclaimed frontiersman. Their adventures, solo and in tandem, extend from the Connecticut River Valley in 1807 to a Great Plains train robbery in 1912, with stops in New Mexico, Pittsburgh and New York City. The historian seeks the embodiment of Clio, muse of history, in various magnetic women; one of them, a dancer whose philosophy echoes that of Isadora Duncan, teaches him to rediscover ``inner stillness.'' The cousins encounter other assertive women--an anarchist seductress, a landscape painter, a pioneer, a psychic, a schoolteacher--all figures meant to underscore the unrealized potential of American women and their unjustified exclusion from historical annals. The work is more successful as theory than as narrative, however. Some of the sections are ponderous or silly, though others are effective as parable. Yet Garber's laudable intent--to strip mythology from accepted historical accounts--surmounts his work's inadequacies. TriQuarterly awarded the book its William Goyen Prize. (Apr.)
"Eugene Garber, casting himself as both Herodotus and Ned Buntline, has elevated American history in the second half of the nineteenth century to the grandeur of a legend about a mighty civilization of thousands of years ago." --Kurt Vonnegut "The Historian is an extraordinary work of the imagination, six character-linked historical 'fantasies' that capture the comically hubristic heart of the American experience in a compellingly witty and elegant prose. A wonderful book. Eugene Garber is quietly emerging as one of the most gifted and original of the metafictionists." --Robert Coover