217. (Ishmael Reed)

Even though it is frequent in contemporary fiction, present-tense narration is not easily justified. People and place are no more immediate in present than in past tense; time progresses and spins out, back on itself, and suddenly forward, in any tense. The present tense, maybe, pretends that something is not settled, that the fixity of the past has been surmounted by the possibilities carried along … Continue reading 217. (Ishmael Reed)

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)

169. (Willa Cather)

At least in her four masterpieces–My Antonia, The Professor’s House, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Shadows on the Rock–Willa Cather is as expansive, sensitive, generous, and understanding towards human life as a novelist could be.  To plot more than she does, it comes to feel, would be to set an agenda; and she has none, though her characters, and the habits and traditions they live by, … Continue reading 169. (Willa Cather)

165. (Henry James)

The post below I now see is muddled. Please see post 167 for a clearer statement. I detect in Nelson Goodman’s response to the question of ‘what good philosophy does’ an affinity with Henry James. The question, said Goodman, takes things from the wrong side. Rather than suppose that philosophy ought to do the world good, he thought we should proceed from the idea that … Continue reading 165. (Henry James)

164. (Herman Melville)

When T.S. Eliot characterized that peculiar mental life we and he call wit, he had in mind a metaphysical poet of the seventeenth century, Andrew Marvell, for whom “wit” would have encompassed “intelligence”; for Eliot, though, the wit of the seventeenth century was the highest species of intelligence: With our eye still on Marvell, we can say that wit is not erudition; it is sometimes … Continue reading 164. (Herman Melville)

163. (William Gaddis)

“So listen I got this neat idea hey, you listening? Hey? You listening . . .?” Thus ends J R.  The voice of an eleven year old buzzing, in miniature typeface on the page, from a dangling phone line: a voice incessantly grabbing attention to peddle its newest scheme, hungry to interact in order to transact, and needing always more. It represents an intersection of the … Continue reading 163. (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)