American memoirist, novelist, and poet Floyd Skloot nimbly crosses the gorge between fact and fiction in his uniquely inventive The Phantom of Thomas Hardy. Part travelogue, part memoir, part novel, this semi-autobiographical and semi-biographical endeavor is multifaceted and blends the various categories so thoroughly that the result is comparable to a rich, smooth-textured cocktail with a faintly peculiar flavor.
Ever since 1968, when Skloot began his college thesis on the novels of Thomas Hardy, he has immersed himself in the life and works of the renowned English writer. Reading and rereading Hardy’s own poetry and prose, as well as numerous biographies and studies of his life, work, and place, Skloot has gleaned a great deal about his literary hero. In The Phantom of Thomas Hardy, perhaps most aptly described as a fictional memoir, Skloot—“a sixty-four-year-old man who has been reading Hardy for 70 percent of his life”—draws on these forty-eight years of knowledge to offer insight into the author’s relationships and life choices.
An appealing and uncommon fusion of biography and personal narrative, The Phantom of Thomas Hardy is also a thoughtful and gratifying journey of discovery.
(University of Wisconsin Press, $22.45)
Published today in the Colorado Review is my review of the latest novel by American memoirist, novelist, and poet Floyd Skloot. Read the full, in-depth book review here.