FROM THE UNCOLLECTED EDMUND WILSON by Edmund Wilson

FROM THE UNCOLLECTED EDMUND WILSON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Although Edmund Wilson himself prepared much of his prodigious critical output for posterity, including three volumes of selected short essays, there is enough left over to make up a serviceable, if slightly reduced, overview. With Wilson's achievement (and reputation) in partial eclipse for his centenary, Groth (English/SUNY, Plattsburgh) and Castronovo (English/Pace Univ.), both of whom have written previously on Wilson, undertake a reconstruction of the development of his eclectic pursuits in one volume. They have picked mainly serious, slightly stodgy pieces, usually on Modernists, Marxists, or canonical figures like T.S. Eliot and Henry James; these add up to an essentially representative selection that begins with his earliest writings. Unlike the editors, though, Wilson wisely never collected his prep school and Nassau Literary Magazine juvenilia, which display his bad habits of pomposity and overemphatic pronouncement, such as a self-important survey of prep school literary magazines or tagging Chesterton "a genius, if you will." He curbed but never purged these tendencies from the lucid style he polished in the 1920s, though again his weighty attempts are over-represented in this section. More interesting are his fellow-traveler writings from the 1930s, which show aspects of his left-wing fervor that Wilson later smoothed over. But the neglect here of formative experiences in WW I fumbles a key to much of Wilson's cultural and political convictions. After WW II he reviewed regularly for the New Yorker, where he returned frequently to old favorites such as Stein, Faulkner, and Joyce, confident in his style of polished asperity. Groth and Castronovo have found both useful undertakings and curiosa from Wilson's career, but as a companion volume, this cannot quite keep up with the rest of his corpus.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8214-1127-6
Page count: 412pp
Publisher: Ohio Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995




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