Delbanco, who tells us in a note that he worked on this novel for a couple of decades, has found in Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, a perfect metaphor for the restless American intelligence. The book first feels like a picaresque novel of the late eighteenth century, but something more is happening here. The few moments when Delbanco steps away from Thompson to the aging woman, Thompsonís descendant living in the twenty-first century who is writing the story of her forebear, permit him to add his reflections on history and storytelling, thoughts the count himself might have valued: ďThe tyrant, time, is undermined then overthrown by memory: a year may be forgotten while an afternoon endures. Nor should we measure by the clock the likelihood of lastingness; a minute can well matter more than does a week.Ē
Nicholas Delbanco reads from The Count of Concord at the U-Mís Rackham Amphitheater on Thursday, October 30.
[Originally published in October, 2008.]