JOHN P. MARQUAND by John J. Gross


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In the now established United States Authors Series on this list, designed to provide evaluations of contemporry and classical writers, this critique of John Phillips Marquand is partly illuminating, partly irritating. The illumination comes by way of extended research since the author has synthesized what everybody from Joseph Warren Beach to Norman has had to say about the Esquire of Boston and Newburyport. The irritation, however, evolves on the one hand from a recurrent sameness of thematic approach and on the other, from a too softly sympathetic presentation. In other words, the case for Marquand as a major writer and our age's social spokesmen is stated, never proved, while the case against him- that he was sardonic and sunny at the same time and therefore false, is never faced. True, Professor Gross tries hard. The novels are viewed as examinations of manners, morals and marriage, while the heroes embody the rise and fall of class consciousness. There's George Apley's ultra Brahmanism, Pulham's New Deal grapplings, Jeffrey Wilson's bluesy WW II world, Charles Grey's postwar lower-upper humanism which will never make the upper-upper, and Willis Wayde's mechanized success. Then there's the bicameral sociology (suburban vs urban) and the bifurcated psychology (the patricians struggling against the proletarian arrivistes, but both ultimately partaking of each other with an increasing fizz- out of standards and sensibility). Yet in these pages, assessed in these ways, Marquand remains as most highbrows have found him, the slick man's Sinclair Lewis.

Publisher: Twayne