SPEAKING OF LITERATURE AND SOCIETY by Lionel Trilling

SPEAKING OF LITERATURE AND SOCIETY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The last in the series of Trilling's collected works, this grabbag of previously uncollected oddments--reviews, questionnaire responses, transcribed scholarly addresses--provides some interesting changes of shading in the portrait of the good gray moderate Force of the Fifties. "There is only one way to accept America and that is in hate," Trilling the Marxist writes in 1930--at the same time resisting seeing in Dos Passos' U.S.A. the greatest thing since the Song of Songs. As a Jew, Trilling protests against the stacked-deck moralizing of Ludwig Lewisohn; a few years later, he's basically declaring himself as denatured of the Tribe as possibly can be. Trilling's real faith seemed to be in refinements, especially two: a stalwart liberalism (refined out of Marxism) and orthodox Freudianism (Judaism's offshoot?). When he writes here about the punishing beauties of society (as he does with almost fearful respect in two fine short appreciations of Fitzgerald and O'Hara) or the beautiful punishment of psychoanalysis (knowledgeable nods toward Jones' Life of Freud and Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death), he is in his tinkering element: in the forces of social and neurotic life, everything is in the state of constant, liquid adjustment Trilling's temperament felt most comfortable with. He stubbornly resists (not once but twice) Partisan Review enquiries--PR's old flank-tightening hunger for alignments--with these words: "I think it is useless and even harmful to spend time in formulating a clear and distinct idea of the literary weather--either you're embarked or you're not embarked. If you are embarked, the weather report can only tell you you're a fool." Uncharacteristically blunt and playful, this is the voice of a tinkering moderate with his nap up. Widow Diana Trilling contributes an anecdotal afterward, mostly biographical, which is only interesting. Minor, leftover Trilling--for completeness only.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
ISBN: 015184710X
Page count: 458pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1980




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