Reviews for Companion for Owls : Being the Commonplace Book of D. Boone, Long Hunter, Back Woodsman, &c.

Booklist Reviews 2004 September #1
/*Starred Review*/ With this masterful interpretation of the quintessential American pioneer, Manning raises the ante for all future practitioners of one of the most fruitful kinds of long poem-sequence: the biography-in-poems. Robert Peters' treatments of Shaker founder Ann Lee (The Gift to Be Simple, 1975), explorer Elisha Kent Kane (kane, 1986), and others focused on their subjects' psychology. Joan Murray's Queen of the Mist (1999, about Annie Taylor, the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel), Jean Nordhaus' The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn (2002), Sharon Chmielarz's The Other Mozart (2001), and Robert Cooperman's Keats sequence, Petitions for Immortality [BKL Ap 15 03], are dramatic and historical. Manning's portrayal of Daniel Boone, however, is philosophical. The semiliterate adventurer and small-time entrepreneur Boone is, per Manning, the ideal unselfish American individualist and the embodiment of that figure so earnestly admired by literary romanticism, the natural man. This may sound like the recipe for a dull read, but the individual poems, even at their most ruminative (in the opening section, "Meditations"), are exceedingly tangible and exciting, referring constantly to the material world and bodily existence and further grounded by genuine biographical events. Moreover, the most speculative aspects of Manning's enterprise, on Boone's possible inspiration of the English Romantics, appear only in an appended essay, which, however, readers ignore at their loss. ((Reviewed September 1, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.