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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Nature Studies

by
John Henry Ryskamp


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

To buy Nature Studies



Title: Nature Studies
Author: John Henry Ryskamp
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998
Length: 308 pages
Availability: Nature Studies - US
Nature Studies - UK
Nature Studies - Canada

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Our Assessment:

C- : a frustrating book of some promise, but ultimately a failed effort

See our review for fuller assessment.



Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly D 19/10/1998 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "Overall, the book resembles the sort of nightmare one imagines having after reading too many issues of Art Forum successively." - Publishers Weekly

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.

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The complete review's Review:

       John Henry Ryskamp's book, Nature Studies, is not without promise. On the whole Ryskamp writes well and often even elegantly, and he has many clever things to say. One goes along with him at first, learning about eagles (in some striking scenes) and the Big Star Lake area of Michigan. One even allows him his discursive digressions as he brings in Einstein and Gödel and Freud and many other famous souls. With time though the joke and jokes wear thin, the knowing asides too often preening (and often expressing foolish notions and opinions), the story too absent.
       Ryskamp is not a stupid man. And he writes well enough to have the makings of a decent author. But this novel is too playful, without either payoff or enough fun to make the effort worthwhile. After a while (and not too long a while) his mutterings and meanderings wear the reader down. If there were any kind of point to this shambles of a novel Ryskamp might be forgiven (we don't necessarily need a story, but we need something for our effort .....). As is, the book -- though sometimes clever (and often not) and written in a solid style -- is a disappointment.
       We're fans of FC2 (the Illinois State University publisher, Fiction Collective 2), and we understand that they might want to publish this as the interesting experiment than it almost is. Nevertheless, we cannot, in good conscience, recommend the book to any but those interested in modern, "experimental" fiction. Ryskamp's style and ideas have some redeeming qualities -- but not enough.

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Links:

Nature Studies:
  • Fiction Collective 2 publicity page
  • A LitLine page on the book. Useful because long excerpt of first chapter available (as Adobe (.pdf) file). (Note that the first chapter is not entirely representative of the novel as a whole).
Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction

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About the Author:

       John Henry Ryskamp has published pieces in Artforum and the Harvard Art Journal.

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