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For several years in the Forties Diana Trilling turned out a fiction column for The Nation, reviewing one or more novels in each, and this is a selection of same--plunked down in chronological order without a table of contents (the author-title index substitutes) and with only a date for a heading: one has to read the piece to find out what's there. But there's method in this muddle for what's not there includes The Naked and the Dead, or anything by Faulkner or Camus or Graham Greene, to cite only the most striking omissions. So, literary history apart, it's futile to pretend, as Paul Fussell does in the introduction, that the selections accurately reflect the attitudes of the Forties, and captious for Trilling to assert (apropos of Aurora Dawn) that ""what is involved here is deep distrust, on the part not alone of Mr. Wouk but of our whole literary culture, of mind."" She disparages a great many now-forgotten books, their authors, and their readers (Hannah Lees' Till the Boys Come Home ""is important as a study in what the middle-brown American reading public can take, or at least be offered, in the way of realism""); she raps Sartre, Nabokov, Saroyan, Welty, Waugh, Cheever, S. T. Warner for doing things or being things she doesn't like. ""I find it difficult to determine how much of my distaste for Eudora Welty's new book, Delta Wedding, is dislike of its literary manner and how much is resistance to the culture out of which it grows. . . . ""And, now and again, she is pleased. But--Fussell's encomiums--""force, control, and precision"" No, the anatomized contents of Ruth McKenney's ""long and serious new novel"" Jake Home (March 13, 1943), Joseph Freeman's Never Call Retreat (March 27, 1943), Search for a Key by Walter Duranty, and A Time to Live by Michael Blankfort (April 10, 1943).

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich