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This is the sort of book I'd like to be able to write about the books published in America during the last twenty five years. Perhaps for that reason, I found it absorbingly interesting. Mr. Adams (for nearly 20 years editor of the New York Time Book Review) here appraises American fiction and poetry (creative literature) with a forward view, seeking, in the achievements and the pattern of the immediate past, ""the shape of books to come"". A quick lookback to the books at the turn of the century; then --with new forces at work, new psychology groping its way, collectivist ideas beginning to emerge, the decline of religious faith and expression, the hatred of war, the distrust of nationalism, the new role of women, the extremes of aesthetic experiment -- groundwork laid for the successive phases through which creative literature has evolved up to the present. There was the period which found its most important expression in Drer, Orane, Norris; there was the phase of naturalism -- regionalism (more often local color) -- so-called realism which too often tended to be preoccupation with the pathological -- the subjective autobiographical novels of Faulkner, Shorwood Anderson, Farrell, Caldwell. Then there were the ""tough guys"" -- and those whose writings evidenced a wholly negative note, despite their positive vitality, a note of despair and hopelessness. The affirmative note found better expression among women writers, -- Ellen, Glasgow, Willa Cather, Pearl Elizabeth Roberts. Steinbeck and Lewis, passionate, humanitarians, Keingway, still showing potentials of growth; and -- newest star on the horizon -- Hersey, who combines rare humor with a blending of outer facts and inner truths, and an awareness of the positive values of selectivity -- in these he sees sure proof that the role of the creative writer of tomorrow is away from the sterility of the past, and towards a positive and affirmative future, a restoration of the dignity of the human spirit, a new realism of vision and aspiration....Of poetry he has loss to say, though the poetry in prose is, to him, an integral part of good writing, a part lacking in the spiritual poverty and poverty of method of the recent past. The first decade of the century was sterile; the publication, Poetry, marked the turning point, a too brief renaissance, of whom alone Robert Frost has emerged, ""the greatest living American author"". He points out the dangers of artificiality, the loss of emotional values, and again today's recognized need for faith and vision...A provocative -- at times a controversial book. A valuable addition to modern criticism.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1944
Publisher: Viking