THE TWENTIES by Edmund Wilson

THE TWENTIES

From Notebooks And Diaries Of The Period
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Borges says that the element that wears least well in writing issur prise. By that measure Edmund Wilson's works should prove quite durable. For the great enjoyment we receive from reading him comes from following a firm mind and a delicate sensibility as they encounter literary and historical texts, expounding on the "ideas and imaginings" within these texts "in the setting of the conditions which have shaped them," and then arriving at conclusions which are both sound and penetrating, but by no means startling. This critical method, precise and impersonal, ideally suited to the essay, seems however, not particularly apt for the memorial volume E.W. compiled from notebooks and diaries he kept during the '20's. Leon Edel remarks in his Introduction: "In the notebooks we meet for the first time the distinctively personal Edmund Wilson." Alas, that's hardly accurate. For the effect of the chronicle, though highly detailed, including revelatory glimpses of E.W.'s sex life (some of the material here was later incorporated in Memoirs of Hecate County), is a bit dim--an elegant but rather fragmentary panorama. Many famous names--people like Cummings, Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker, Frank Crowninshield, Elinor Wylie--pop in and out, but these portraits, as well as the "intimate" anecdotes, tend to be somewhat chatty and inconclusive. Wilson himself notes: "My reports are probably to some extent unfair, because it is always easier to tell about the ineptitudes and absurdities of other people than it is about similar occurrences on the part of oneself. The reader should make allowances for this and not allow me to give the impression that everyone else was gauche or ridiculous." There are some fine pictorial glimpses of the New Jersey shore, of Hollywood and Broadway and the Village; some moving data on family life; interesting travel sketches of the West Coast, the Midwest, Province town, Louisiana. Still the sort of"literature" that E.W. calls "the result of our rude collisions with reality" is not here.
Pub Date: May 23rd, 1975
ISBN: 0553028200
Page count: 466pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1975




MORE BY EDMUND WILSON

FictionI THOUGHT OF DAISY by Edmund Wilson
by Edmund Wilson
FictionTHE HIGHER JAZZ by Edmund Wilson
by Edmund Wilson
NonfictionFROM THE UNCOLLECTED EDMUND WILSON by Edmund Wilson
by Edmund Wilson

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS: