Fall of Frost
by: Brian Hall
Published by: Viking
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Reviewed by Julie Failla Earhart
I wanted so bad to like Brain Hall’s new novel, Fall of Frost, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t the odd and difficult structure that got to me. It was the need to be a Frost scholar in order to understand and appreciate the chapters that created my frustration with this book. It’s my opinion that the work qualifies more as a dissertation than an accessible work of fiction.
Hall readily admits, in his Author’s Notes at the book’s end, that Fall of Frost is more biographical fiction than real fiction. After all, Hall relies heavily on the known facts of the great poet’s life, transcripts from which he draws the dialogue, and real letters that are quoted or paraphrased. Hall is not so much as trying to educate the non-scholar but “to suggest how a great writer’s language flows out of his life and back into it, how certain mysteriously fecund words and their associated ideas are turned under in the writer’s mind, whence they sprout daughter ideas, seedlings that are turned under again, until the mind ”˜can contain itself no more, But sweating-full, drips wine and oil a little.’” This sentence from the Author’s Notes provides the perfect example of how this book is written and how difficult it is to sometimes follow.
Another item of note that truly surprised me was the fact that the Estate of Robert Frost refused to grant Hall copyright permission to duplicate poems not already in the public domain (works published after 1922). Although Hall doesn’t know why permission was refused, the lack of the complete poems makes some of the vignettes difficult to understand and makes the work almost impossible to understand.
I feel I must comment on the Fall of Frost’s odd structure. The time frame is fractured between various times in the Frost’s life. For example, Chapter 1 occurs in 1963, Chapter 2 in 1900, Chapter 3 in 1940, Chapter 4 in 1874, etc. Personally, I like the non-linear format because Hall linked together important and influential part of Frost’s life. That made for a much more interesting reading than a strict chronological structure.
Armchair Interviews says: Might be of interest to Robert Frost fans.
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