By Warner Berthoff
Probes postwar American writers' abandonment of distinguishing positive factors of literary workmanship in writings considered as testaments of private survival and displays at the clients of literature in a time of cultural hindrance and float
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Additional info for A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945
Il aa1opcK111M npaaoM A Generation in Retreat 43 life ''to statistical anonymity, or to the status of mere case history. ) The diagnosis will hardly be unfamiliar. Descriptions of the same prevailing con ditions of life, more or less, have latterly become a kind of bookseller's co1nmodity. * The recognizable commo11 truth in Jameson's ac count may considerably explain, in quite practical terms, our rising critical tolerance for the time-filling volubility that has returned to fashion. The reassur ance of any sort of speaking voice, any unpro grammed personal utterance, becomes an end in it self, worth seeking out and giving one's ear to wherever found.
Cl Robert Penn Warren, or to Bread Loaf to breathe in the sly, untransferable self promotions of Robert Frost, or to Sa11 Francisco and environs where they could choose between Yvor Winters and Kenneth Rexroth as mentors (and choose well in either case), or else to Paris cafes where Picasso had doodled and Hemingway watched and listened; who prowled the Grolier Book Shop, Newbegin's, Shakespeare & Company, the Gotham Book Mart, for autographs and fresh clues; who paid ritual calls on Dr. Williams in Ruther[ord, Marian11e Moore in Brooklyn Heights, Louise Bogan at The New Yorker, Henry Miller at Big Sur, Pound in the fortress of St.
And sig nificant to whom, apart from an educated arid bu reaucratized elite holding on for dear life to illusions of cultural primacy and the satisfactions and preroga tives of commodity-market ''excellence''? Bellow himself, in the text of Herzog, fixes on the collapse of these illusions when he identifies all certified po etic, philosophical, and religious thinking, the whole modern ''dream of intellect," as no more than ''a second realm of confusion'' -and ends his novel, characteristically, in a gesture of relieved abnegation: ''No messages [now] for anyone.
A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945 by Warner Berthoff