By Douglas Robinson
Ring Lardner and the Other is actually two books, mutually embedded. The first is about Ring Lardner: a long reading of a single Lardner short story, "Who Dealt?", a briefer look at his life and work, and an exploration of his reception. The second is about the "Other," in an expanded Lacanian sense: the speaking of various unconscious voices (mother and father and child, culture and anarchy, majority and minority) through literary characters and their authors and readers. The Lardner book explores the contradictions of Lardner's patriarchal masculinity--how such a dour, sexist alcoholic who hated humor and bad grammar could have created such a rich body of minoritarian writing, steeped in the emergent voices of women and the lower middle class--and the social functions served by Lardner's writing in twentieth-century America. The other book exfoliates Lacan's germinal concept of the Other by interweaving it with a series of theoretical formulations by Bateson, Deleuze and Guattari, and others. Robinson's book is an important reappraisal of a critically neglected American writer of the teens and twenties. The book includes an essay by Ellen Gardiner.
- New York