In this collection of essays, James McConkey—novelist, professor, and memoirist—writes about the authors and experiences that have meant the most to him. In "Three Autobiographical Essays" and "A Story for a Child," McConkey poignantly recalls events of courting and family life that remain as clear in his inner vision as the day they took place. In "Eight Essays about Literature," he explains why he loves the books he loves and why he responds to the work of A. R. Ammons, Anton Chekhov, and E. M. Forster, among others. With an even greater power than the telescope standing in the corner of his study, McConkey's inner eye observes telling scenes of memory and imagination, which through the magic of his writing become vibrant images in the reader's own imagination.
In the title essay, McConkey recalls the vivid moment that led him to become a chronicler of his own experiences, when he "attempt[ed] to connect the normal details of daily living to a unity...apprehended only for an instant, and which consciousness itself has since kept from [his] reach." Watching McConkey make these connections is but one of the delights this book provides.
James McConkey is the author of Crossroads, The Tree House Confessions, The Novels of E.M. Forster, and Court of Memory (a continuing biography that appeared serially in various magazines, primarily The New Yorker), and many other books. He is Goldwin Smith Professor of English Literature Emeritus at Cornell University.
"Elegant and deeply personal, McConkey's essays reveal a seasoned mind and a soulful spirit." —Publishers Weekly
"Like his colleagues Forster and Chekhov, James McConkey combines a sharp eye, a nimble mind and a bottomless generosity. In The Telescope in the Parlor, as in all his fine and intimate essays, he is concerned with the very deepest subjects: time, memory, and what it means to be human. May this new addition to his 'Court of Memory' remind readers how vital and necessary a writer he is." —Stewart O'Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying
"James McConkey uses his own memory as a tool that unlocks everything—a telescope with a view of the entire universe. I can't think of another writer who uses that tool with as much precision, delicacy, and love." —Anne Fadiman, author of Ex Libris
"McConkey makes of his own life . . . a thoughtful, powerful and vivid work of art." —Annie Dillard
"James McConkey speaks to the reader with poignant force, illuminating ordinary life . . . There is no voice like his alive today." —May Sarton
"The genre in which McConkey does his best writing has no name. He invented it . . . . What McConkey does is to create meaning out of ordinary life . . . he'll create what is not exactly a story but a pattern in time . . . His books should be famous." —Noel Perrin , USA Today