A signal contribution to the field of American literary and social analysis is subtitled A Study of the American...



A signal contribution to the field of American literary and social analysis is subtitled A Study of the American Imagination. Through its study of the impact of the success myth on the consciousness of five turn-of-the-century novelists, each of whom took that myth as the key to our society, it brings into clear focus the widening gap between the myth and the dream that gave their works the characteristics peculiar to them. The five are Dreiser, London, David Graham Phillips, Frank Norris and Robert Herrick. Their common problems were poverty, the horrors attached to success, the gamble of marriage, the corruption of sexual relations attendant upon success, the spoiled ""second generation"", material satiation and so forth. But the individuality of each writer is rather masterfully recreated by Lynn in the analytical essays that precede. Horatio Alger comes first- as a sugary prelude to sour grapes. His were the stories that set the pure and simple pattern of success with which few found quarrel until the 90's. Then those who did noted their surroundings with a wide range of emotional responses. While Dreiser and London were born poor and followed the real path from rags to riches, Phillips, Norris and Herrick-were born with the ""handicap"" of silver spoons in their mouths. Dreiser's novels followed much the pattern of his own life and Lynn ties the two together in a neat package. He does the same for London, the ""brain merchant"", whose oddly engendered socialism backfired. Phillips, whose Lochinvars were ever from the West, was killed by a paranoid from the class of snobs he berated; Norris was a mama's boy whose attempts at success ran to the psychological perverse; Herrick went to the extreme of prescribing a transcendent loyalty to the state to replace the lost good old days. The fascinating material can only be hinted at here, and Lynn's mind acts on it with incisive brilliance that restores its significance.

Pub Date: April 14, 1955


Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown- AMP

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1955