"Davenport writes in his essay “Joyce the Reader” that
It is difficult to think of writers other than James Joyce the understanding of whose works is so dependent on knowing what they read. Once writers have achieved Joyce’s status, curiosity alone might lead us to look into their reading. What we discover is that literature is a complex dialogue of books talking to books. We see significances generated by affinites and associations of great imaginative intensities.
This collection underscores Davenport’s observation, and expands it to include the complex dialogue of critics talking about books talking to other books. It’s a palimpsest, or a Russian nesting doll of conversation. As Kenner and Davenport communicate to one another, the best that Western civilization has to offer speaks to us through them.
Hinted at in the deep echoes of their words is the current denouement of our own collective passion towards artistic and cultural origins. Without such creative caretakers, Pound’s “Make it new!”, first denuded of the tradition to which “it” referenced, then robbed of its “make” by now outmoded “death of the author” trends, left us only with the “new” part of the equation. Which, of course, doesn’t mean much without context other than a particularly banal sort of amnesia. Kenner and Davenport lived that context, and their epistolary dialogue breathes a bit of life back into a world still waiting for the Waste Land to transform back into our home."