THE CRITIC AS ARTIST: Essays on Books 1920-1970 by Gilbert A. -- Ed. Harrison

THE CRITIC AS ARTIST: Essays on Books 1920-1970

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The cheerful opening remarks here are Mencken's differentiating reviewing -- ""a much inferior business"" -- from criticism and you'll find both in this retrospective collection of New Republic pieces. Sometimes the critic is more artist than his subject -- Faulkner on Remarque or Katherine Anne Porter on Kay Boyle. Sometimes the critics are just critics -- Irving Howe, Stanley Kauffmann, T. S. Matthews for example (the latter with a piece on Ali Quiet on the Western Front by some totally unidentified author. There are other occasional instances of editorial laziness -- John Lehmann repeats himself unforgivably on Maugham). Except perhaps for Sarah Orne Jewett and Ellen Glasgow, time has worked in the favor of most of these subjects -- Wolfe and Nabokov and Thurber and Henry Miller and Dos Passos, etc. Among those we liked -- Anatole Broyard on Roth's ""Moby Dick of masturbation""; Joseph Featherstone on Katherine Anne Porter's work and its ""ominous presence of history""; Updike on Sillitoe; F. Scott Fitzgerald with a personal commemorative of his friend Ring Lardner; Malcolm Cowley on Fitzgerald. The stance, high but not high-domed, repudiates -- as does Mencken -- that a ""man is a critic when he cannot be an artist"" and the essays are firmly representative of ongoing values rather than transient counterfeit chic.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1972
Publisher: Liveright