THE PARTY AT CRANTON by John W. Aldridge


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In two books of criticism -- After the Lost Generation and In Search of Heresy John Aldridge argued that in a generation (the present one) without common values and beliefs and which lacks, therefore, true heretics, there can be no proper literature either of commitment or revolt. In Mr. Aldridge's view what remains, after suitable dramatic subjects have been disposed of, is only the literature of small musings, petty introspections and of conformity. This book supposedly in the form of a novel is an exposition of his critical themes. But lst the point slip by unnoticed the author explains it: ""What happens when real life ceases to create a dramatic effect -- when the primary truth of it becomes its predictability, its lack of overt action and drama. The writer can either exaggerate or distort that reality or can find some other, more honest and accurate way of making it dramatically interesting -- while at the same time preserving the primary truth of its dullness"". The Party at Cranton is a satire on a special kind of academic community, its cultural arrivistes and on the conformity of upper middle- class Americans. The party at Cranton provides Waithe, a watcher but an untrustworthy witness, with the opportunity to explore the secret realities (or is it all a facade?) of Cranton's dramatis personae. There is the poet Anthony Marsh, a fraud who lives on literary fellowships; Shelby who ""discovered knowledge as some young men discover liquor or sex""; Dorothy Murchison, the classics scholar, who spoke with a peculiar foreign accent she acquired on an Iowa chicken farm; and the book's central enigma Arthur Keith Buchanan, a literary Napoleon of various disguises who dominates Cranton. With the object of discovering just what Buchanan is, Waithe is led into a labyrinth of intimations, complexities and vaporous speculations. Supposedly Buchanan was once a poet of the Southern agrarian school who had been deserted by the ""movement"" and who himself became part of the academic Establishment to reign as the imperious critic. But Waithe's processes of triple-think never assure him of the truth Cranton proves too much for him. Though utterly devastating in his particularizations, the author's own pretensions and bloodless intellectualizations become a part of the book's satire and leave one with the feeling that The Party at Granton might very well have been written by one of the Cranton set.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1960
Publisher: David McKay