THE SELECTED ESSAYS OF CYRIL CONNOLLY by Cyril Connolly

THE SELECTED ESSAYS OF CYRIL CONNOLLY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Connolly (1903-74) is often cited as a splendid might-have-been, a lively, knowledgeable writer who frittered away his talents reviewing books (for the New Statesman, The Observer, the Sunday Times, and Horizon); but this collection, by his lifelong friend Peter Quennell, makes one wonder just how deep that unmined vein actually ran. Connolly, to be sure, did some things extraordinarily well. His travel writings are a model of intelligent journalism: sensuous, richly detailed, alert to everything in the landscape. When he writes about the architecture of Bordeaux, the charms of the Dordogne, the squalor and fascination of Egypt, he could be a tour guide for kings. And Connolly was a deft critic, at least in one-on-one situations. ""The tempo of Tristram Shandy,"" he notes, "". . . reminds one at times of the youthful occupation of seeing how slowly one can ride a bicycle without falling off."" But when he tries to tackle broader subjects, as in ""Writers and Society, 1940-3,"" the longest of the 28 pieces printed here, he lapses into shallow banalities: ""There can be no dignity of man without respect for the humanities""; ""The ultimate enemy of art is power."" His worst performance, however, comes in the handful of parodies that close the book, spoofs (of Aldous Huxley and Ian Fleming, among others) so quirky and mannered they consistently misfire. In talking about what he loves (Properties, life in provincial France) or knows very well (London, James Joyce), Connolly can stand comparison with the best in his metier. But his decision to remain a miniaturist rather than become a muralist suggests that he recognized his limits. A pleasant if distinctly minor literary monument.

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 1983
Publisher: Persea Books (225 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012)