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Holding up a lantern, Ashbery becomes a guide, leading the reader through the reverse narrative of his literary influences. He offers the notion that influence often happens inadvertently. Thus, his book can be read as a map charting the development of one of our most eminent poets. He allows the reader a personal perspective—replete with musings and asides. The tone of his sweeping prose is that of a friend and mentor.
— Dean Kostos