WRITERS IN CRISIS by Maxwell Geismar


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Six moderns:- Lardner, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Steinbeck. Definitely not a book for superficial students of literature, but rather for those who are interested in meticulous, sometimes controversial, searching analyses of the modern mood interpreted by and influencing these authors, whom Geismar has chosen as significant of their times. Of Lardner he says- ""in his light moments our greatest comic personality, in his serious work an incomparable artist...and for his new American literature Lardner fashioned a new American language."" He was, however, fully aware of his occasional cheapness, his irrelevancies, his sadism, his condemnation of life as a dead end. Hemingway he defines as the ""writer who left us and came back."" He senses his magic, his inherited depth, his reaching awareness in the midst of ex-aspirating limitations, his withdrawal from experience and denial of moral responsibilities, his search into the shadows of life, -- ""Hall nothing, full of nothing, nothing is with thee"". The crisis of the '30's he sees as a salutary shock to our writers. John Dos Passos he sees as the American poet of dissolution, behind the radical historian; Faulkner as the unreconstructed rebel moving from a troubled but tender and intensely human world towards the perverse and pathological, finally experiencing artistic despair. More than any other, Thomas Wolfe was conditioned by our decade, ego bound, theatrical, violent, but indicating in his last book, the beginnings of spiritual regeneration. In Steinbeck he sees the impassioned radical who exploited the ruling classes, but who relates self to the immediate social issues, emerging with the victory of repressed realism over romantic serenity. He demonstrates how in a period of chaos the work of four of these writers sounds a note of life and aspiration, looking ahead. Brief mention in final section of other ""writers in crisis"" -- but very briefly. A book for scholars.

Pub Date: June 16th, 1942
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin