I wouldn’t be surprised if I (with the exception of one person, more on that) was the only person within a 50-mile radius to read Frederick Exley’s Pages From a Cold Island, a widely unread sequel to book that still very few people have read. It is an odd feeling. It’s like you are reading something just for you. It’s a good book, one that I don’t think surpasses its predecessor A Fan’s Notes one of the great unheralded works of 20th century literature, which I read back in 2009, and the reading of this makes me curious to revisit it. Exley is skilled at these self eviscerating swaths of prose that both impress you and fill you with pity for a person who seemingly had mountains of talents but for some reason, both personal and impersonal, seems destined to remain on the fringes of literary history, a writer whose constantly being discovered, the quintessential writer’s writer, something the title of his first book quietly implies. The plot is meandering and a bit hard to follow on the surface, but it does take place after the publication of A Fan’s Notes. Exley has found himself mourning the death of writer and mentor Edmund Wilson, and takes to drinking to stave off the grief and other demons introduced in A Fan’s Notes. During the course of the book, he obsesses over a meeting with Gloria Steinem, infiltrates Wilson’s family, badmouths Norman Mailer and begins having affairs with students he teaches at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. There is a harsh truth to these vignettes; they use the real names of people (one being Dan Wakefield, a writer from Indiana who taught at my college) and don’t always say the nicest things. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that a lot of Exley’s obscurity is self-imposed. At times charming, at times annoying and at times sad, this forgotten book by a forgotten author isn’t quite the hidden gem as some others are, but it’s worth checking out if you come across it.