"The only way out," writes Howard Nemerov, "is the way through, just as you cannot escape death except by dying. Being unable to write, you must examine in writing this being unable, which becomes for the present--henceforth?--the subject to which you are condemned." This is the record of the struggle to compose a novel; a struggle transformed by Nemerov into a far-reaching exploration of the creative process itself.
"He often shows bravery and shrewdness; the book is full of fine criticism and psychological insight. As always, his prose has that ease and transparency that make one forget one is reading; one seems simply to hear a voice speaking. Nemerov's improvised self-analysis has weaknesses, but few that he himself doesn't eventually recognize."--New York Times Book Review
"In an age of explicitness, Nemerov's Journal of the Fictive Life is explicitly without vulgarity; in an age of revelation, it reveals only what counts. More then a book about creativity, it is a beautiful creation."--Richard G. Stern
Kunstlerroman is a fancy literary term given to any novel in which artistic consciousness is the central concern, as with Joyce's Stephen Hero. However, Rilke's Nalte or some of Valery's prose meditations can be taken as extensions of the concept into the more general area of diary-like aesthetic self-analysis, and it is in such a category that one must place Nemerov's Journal. Unfortunately, that is about as far as one can go with flattering comparisons. Nemerov's reflections are rather randomly conceived notebook jottings, playfully or wanly entered. A mild frustration is the dominant mood (Nemerov the poet wants to write fiction but he is at a creative impasse); the method is associational: long stretches of personal recollections, largely psychologically oriented, mixed with philosophical finger-exercises and so forth. Nemerov is at his best with cogent references to the masters (Dante, Pascal, Shakespeare, Freud, James). His own remarks are usually unexceptional ("Life is very short, a brief instant of light; but every instant of it may contain all eternity"), or epigrammatically cute ("It is not my childhood that I seek, but the childhood of my art. As much as to say, Mommy, where do images come from?"). Of course, Nemerov escapes banality by employing a shrewdly ironic tone throughout and suggesting all sorts of cultivated nuances or personae. But even that eventually palls. (Kirkus Reviews)