THE AMERICAN GENTLEMAN

SOCIAL PRESTIGE AND THE MODERN LITERARY MIND

Despite alluding to George Bush and a few movie stars in his opening, Castronovo (English/Pace) is primarily interested in the literary representation of gentlemen, figures who either have prestige or lose it or are criticized for the way they acquire or exhibit it. After establishing the irony of class consciousness in a democratic society, Castronovo describes the European models for American gentility, the regional differences, the characteristic pleasures (fox-hunting, cricket) and values (honor, social service, fortitude, etc.), the schools where they are acquired, and the special places—the clubs and country homes—where they are practiced. He then traces the appearance of the gentleman in literature, mostly novels, methodically analyzing, comparing and contrasting, and usually accounting for its decline. The chapter on New York, for example, surveys Edith Wharton, Louis Auchincloss, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary McCarthy, and John Cheever, and concludes decisively with Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, which, according to Castronovo, shows the fate of the gentleman in modern life. The survey of the refined and more spiritual New England gentleman runs from Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry James to T.S. Eliot, J.P. Marquand, and Cheever again, concluding with Robert Lowell's Life Studies. Literary selections representing the southern gentleman, the provincial, and the western (the cowboy), enhanced by John Wayne and Joan Didion's essay on him, are equally eclectic, disregarding the sexual, class, regional, religious, or economic affiliations of the authors, the audiences for which they wrote, and even the growing decline of regionalism in literature that has taken place since the 50's, with the nationalization of media and therefore culture. Although Castronovo is very methodical, he fails to give his study a sociological framework or historical context, offering what is at best a pleasant exercise by a gentleman scholar, one of the few varieties of gentlemen he neglects here. (Illustrations.)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 1991

ISBN: 0-8264-0532-0

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Continuum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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