Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index



to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK


the Complete Review
the complete review - prose

Selected Declarations of Dependence

Harry Mathews

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Selected Declarations of Dependence

Title: Selected Declarations of Dependence
Author: Harry Mathews
Genre: Prose
Written: 1977
Length: 185 pages
Availability: Selected Declarations of Dependence - US
Selected Declarations of Dependence - UK
Selected Declarations of Dependence - Canada
  • With illustrations by Alex Katz

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : perverbs and paraphrases -- how can you not love it ?

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Cont. Fiction A- Summer/1996 Eric Loberer

  From the Reviews:
  • "Mathews's Oulipo-enhanced texts are a pleasure. As for the drawings -- well, (...) these repetitive illustrations do little to enhance a reader's enjoyment of the book. But as the perverb says, "Bird in the hand, sailor's delight." " - Eric Lorberer, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Harry Mathews' experimental fiction Selected Declarations of Dependence offers a dazzling array of variations on familiar ideas and phrases. Mathews focusses on the proverb as the building block of his prose. A stitch in time saves nine and Every cloud has a silver lining and the like.
       The first, longest, section, called Their words, for you is an elaborate tale (of sorts) whose entire vocabulary is made up of the words contained in forty-six familiar proverbs. This obviously places a great number of constraints on the text, but Mathews still manages to make much of it. Decidedly Oulipian in approach, it is a perversely interesting effort.
       The rest of the book consists largely of so-called "perverbs" and "paraphrases." In perverbs proverbs are taken and perverted -- two disparate ones mixed and matched. The results lead to the bizarre and the obvious (and often the helpful):

Every cloud has its day.
A bird in the hand does as the Romans do.
Man proposes, but you can't make him drink.
It's an ill wind that's another man's poison.
       Paraphrases take the perverbs a step further, paraphrasing the perverbs in more explicit language. Mathews' explanatory example:
"The sky was clear except for the fog rising to the east -- fermentation from the oak bog" is a paraphrase of the perverb "Every cloud from little acorns grows."
       It is a somewhat dizzying unrolling of many variations on these approaches that follow, but Mathews varies between the perverbs and paraphrases, and intersperses brief episodes employing these devices (the most successful of which is An Interview with Chairman Mao Tsetung), keeping the reader entertained.
       A clever and humorous collection it has definite entertainment value. It is a fun and occasionally thoughtful read. Not your usual fiction, but worthwhile in its own right.

- Return to top of the page -


Harry Mathews: OuLiPo: Other Books by Harry Mathews under Review Other books of interest under review

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       American author Harry Mathews was born in 1930. He graduated from Harvard. In 1952 he moved to Paris, becoming a member of the OuLiPo in the early 1970s.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2000-2010 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links