The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2019
Advent / Christmas Calendar
Hardback: Wave Books, 2019
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]
Dunce is also a book that (starting with its title) questions what exactly knowledge is and how to use it, particularly literary knowledge. Literary and philosophical references are scattered throughout these poems: quotes from Dylan Thomas and references to Cervantes, Madame Bovary, and
nursery rhymes; allusions to Wordsworth’s daffodils. In a different register, Adam and Eve appear, and there is a poem called “Solomon” that starts out, “King Solomon didn’t know what to do.” All of these allusions, references, and quotations are thrown in the book to create a landscape. This is the type of knowledge Ruefle has spent her life acquiring, and it constantly frames her point of view, yielding more questions than answers. The speaker in Dunce comes at the reader not with an air of well-read authority or wisdom but more as someone in love with curiosity and wonder, perhaps dunce-like or perhaps just someone humbled by the world itself.
The joy of reading Dunce is that it simultaneously puts us face-to-face with mortality and asks us to come fully into the present. It asks the reader to play and to fall in love, to find what makes us forget everything else, while there’s still time.
- from our review by Rebekah Denison Hewitt
in our Advent 2019 magazine issue
***READ the NY Times review of this book…