Sep 1967 • Vol. XXIX No. 4 Book ReviewsSeptember 1, 1967 |

Fictions and Their Status

The Sense Of An Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction by Frank Kermode. Oxford University Press, $5.75. Tell me what fiction is, and I will tell you what truth is. Frank Kermode's brilliant "Studies in the Theory of Fiction" both summarize and advance an age-old debate--here at least there can be no sense of an ending. "The truest poetry is the most feigning." "For the poet, he nothing affirms, and therefore never lieth . . . Though he recount things not true, yet because he telleth them not for true, he lieth not." Neither of those old saws is called on by Kermode; he is more concerned with modern instances. Given a book as rich, provocative, and humane, a reviewer's first job is to epitomize. There is a simple relation between literary and other fictions (say, legal, mathematical, or religious). A fiction is "something we know does not exist but which helps us to make sense of and to move in the world." Kermode's key example is the apocalypse. In life, such a shaping id

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