A review of Music from the Lake and Other Essays by Catharine Savage Brosman (Chronicles Press, 2017).
Catharine Savage Brosman is a treasure of Southern literature. Although much of her work shows her solid Colorado Rocky Mountain upbringing, somehow I do not think she will mind being placed in Southern literature. Most of her career was spent in New Orleans and she now lives in Houston. More importantly, her depth of perception and her pietas toward Creation show a spirit akin to the greatest Southern writers.
Brosman resembles the Southern greats in another way. Like Poe, Simms, Warren, Garrett, Chappell, Berry, she is not only marvelously productive but also marvelously versatile—poetry, essays, and literary criticism and history. While she is distinguished as poet and essayist, her scholarship in French literature (as Professor of French at Tulane) is of an amount and quality that puts 99 per cent of the current American professoriate to shame. (Although these days such achievement is likely to provoke disguised resentment rather than respect.)
Further for my Southern argument: Brosman’s books that immediately precede Music from the Lake are Louisiana Creole Literature: A Historical Study and Southwestern Women Writers and the Vision of Goodness. I rest my case except to say that it has long been my fancy that Southerners are French and Yankees are German. If that is so, there is no doubt where she fits.
Music in the Lake and Other Essays is a wonderful exercise in civilized discourse, reminiscent of the great quarterlies of earlier times. It gracefully bestows on the reader an experience that is at the same time serious and entertaining. Personal experiences and reflections accompany great learning lightly worn and inimitable discussions of the decline of contemporary culture. The multiple aspects of that decline may be said to be the theme of the work.
I have read and do read far too many books. But I am happy indeed that this one did not pass me by.