By Leonard Unger, Jay Parini
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Extra resources for American Writers, Supplement XIII
The poems in The Circle Game (1966) describe warring oppositions between the natural and human worlds. Many of the poems explore the way the human need for order becomes stultifying. “The City Planners” shows how suburbs impose an unnatural order not only on “the discouraged grass” and landscape but on the quality of life there. ” In the much anthologized “This Is a Photograph of Me” the speaker lies invisibly under the water in a blurry photograph. The speaker exists and is visible only as an insistent negation.
Critics see these three victims as various triumvirates. Stein suggests that the three women are different aspects of the personality: Tony, an academic war historian, is the mind; Charis, interested in yoga, tarot, and spirituality, is the spirit; Roz, a successful executive interested in appearances, is the body. Stein also characterizes the three women as aspects of the triple goddess, and Sarah Appleton Aguiar sees them as the past (Tony), present (Roz), and future (Charis). The novel starts when the three women, believing Zenia to be dead, see her at the restaurant where they are having lunch.
Grace’s friend Mary Whitney has an affair with her employer’s son and dies of a botched abortion. If one can believe Grace’s narration, James McDermott’s lust for Grace forms another example of the danger of romance and desire. The novel combines Grace’s story to Dr. Jordan, Grace’s story to the reader, and Dr. Jordan’s narration with historical artifacts such as newspaper clippings and letters. Critics note that the various versions and intertexts of the novel enhance and subvert the detective story/ murder mystery of the novel.
American Writers, Supplement XIII by Leonard Unger, Jay Parini