226. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

A few generations ago, the starting point of a discussion about Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the writers of his time and place, seems to have been about the possibility or difficulty of American literature. For a long time, I couldn’t make heads or tails of that discussion; there was Fenimore Cooper, but he was an exception, either a derivative of Scott or else accomplishing something others … Continue reading 226. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

193. (Marius Bewley)

Marius Bewley is probably little remembered nowadays; a literary critic of the mid-century, whose critical principles were indebted mostly to Lionel Trilling and F.R. Leavis, he wrote mostly, and most penetratingly, on American literature. His book length studies of the American novel, The Eccentric Design and The Complex Fate, are concerned with authors from Cooper to Fitzgerald, with special attention in the latter to Hawthorne … Continue reading 193. (Marius Bewley)

162. (William Gaddis)

No other writer has made me think about the short story and short fiction as William Gaddis has; that is maybe because his novels JR and The Recognitions are as far from the form of the short story as a novel can be, and for this sort of novel to succeed, it needs to remind itself, and remind us, of why it is not something else, namely a … Continue reading 162. (William Gaddis)

161. (William Gaddis)

Though The Recognitions may have overwhelmed more powerfully, submerging and clinging with an undercurrent, JR (so far; nearing a half-way mark) is the more astonishing novel, for the technical challenge it confronts, overcomes, and redeems—redemption being necessary because a novel depending on a limitation of form or technique alone needs, for success, to prove that the challenge opened a new horizon, accommodated feeling and thought … Continue reading 161. (William Gaddis)

160. (William Gaddis)

Charles Dickens appears as a character in Gaddis’ The Recognitions, published in 1955, and it is hard not to believe that Gaddis did not, if he did not arrive there himself, come to an appreciation of Dickens through the praise of Edmund Wilson, written some fifteen years earlier and carrying others in its wake since. In The Recognitions, Charles Dickens attempts suicide, and later, after a stay … Continue reading 160. (William Gaddis)

159. (William Gaddis)

T.S. Eliot’s claim that Henry James had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it might be misunderstood as disguised disparagement or understood, against the intentions of the critic, as damning praise; it might also be taken as a stupid statement. I think it might suppose an alignment of mind and work, so that Eliot really is referring to the quality of the … Continue reading 159. (William Gaddis)

158. (George Eliot)

Six, and possibly seven, models were available for the realist novel in the nineteenth century. First, the novel of social order and disorder, in which society is an engine with efficiency and waste, or with conservation and loss (Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Zola at times; the novel of manners and naturalism are both potentially in this category–that is because this category could likely swell to fit … Continue reading 158. (George Eliot)