C. P. SNOW by Jerome Thale


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Thale's boomerang essay, designed to demonstrate Snow's literary art, offers in evidence significant passages from the Strangers and Brothers series; they make one think of Wilson's verdict: ""almost.... unreadable."" His breakdown of its themes, characterizations and socio-political multiplicities, inclines one to Leavis' view: Snow ""can't be said to know what a novel is."" Often his general statements are puzzling. ""...realism has never really died, though in the earlier part of the century it was not employed by any major talent in English."" (Not even Bennett, Galsworthy, Dreiser?) ""And recently it has shown renewed vitality in novelists, like Bacchelli, Sholokhov, Auchincloss and Cozzebs."" (Is Sholokhov recent? What's Auchincloss doing with him and Bacchelli?) Further arbitrary groupings: Snow, ""writing as early as 1932,"" still ""seems to us to belong not with Lawrence, Kafka, Steinbeck, but with Bellow, Golding, Styron, Amis"" -- meaning, he's popular in the '60's, therefore he's ""modern."" But Snow is opposed to the existential, alienated or neo-Chaplinesque spirit; neo-Trollopian is more like it. Thale has written an industrious, sympathetic account. He offers some sensible commentary on the conflict between love and power, on the administrative ethos, the pragmatic temper. He has tried with splendid disinterest to present Sir Charles as a culture hero, and many will applaud the attempt. Alas his works largely glorify, to use Nietzsche's phrase, ""the scientific beatitudes.

Publisher: Scribners