LOUIS AUCHINCLOSS by Christopher C. Dahl


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A functional survey of the novelist's works, which, like most works in lit crit series, circles slowly around the periphery of critical insights. The force of the author's intelligent readings is lost in a work-by-work, plot-by-plot format that fails to offer resounding themes. As Auchincloss is not generally considered a major novelist, this study is often a book in defense of itself. In every criticism there is a measure of praise: if he is a monolithic prose stylist, so was Henry James. If his work is sometimes formulaic, it is always infused with psychological realism. If insular, it is self-aware. The organization--which chronologically ticks off each work with some comment--is tedious, especially with the overly thorough plot summaries. Unfortunately for Auchincloss, these notes emphasize the sameness of his novels--as character after character travels the road from Prep to Ivy to Army to Law and High Finance. This is old-fashioned criticism in search of what the author intended and how biography informs his work. As such--and with notes on other critical evaluations--it will be a useful starting point for students of Auchincloss, though the writer's own literary autobiography, A Writer's Capital, is a better one. The author concludes that Auchincloss is destined to be a minor novelist because he has undertaken to portray a small corner of society--but he is not only a chronicler of an effete world but a defender of it. He is doomed to minority as much by his faith as by his art.

Pub Date: July 10th, 1986
Publisher: Ungar