John Donne: The Critical Heritage

By Barry Maine | Go to book overview
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MANHATTAN TRANSFER

November 1925

12.

Henry Longan Stuart, review, New York Times Book Review

29 November 1925, 5, 10

Stuart (1875-1928) translated French novels into English and wrote several novels himself, including Weeping Cross (1933). He reviewed fiction regularly for the New York Times Book Review. The review contrasts Dos Passos’s narrative technique with Joyce’s, and finds his portrait of life in New York City unduly pessimistic.

A time seems to arrive in the career of nearly all of our writers of the younger school when the challenge of New York to their imagination and descriptive powers assumes the proportions of a clear duty that may no longer be shirked if self-respect is to be maintained. This piled up mass of humanity, amorphous and heterogeneous at one and the same time, is a storehouse of impressions that it is either affectation or cowardice to ignore. These canyons, twenty stories high, replete with complex creatures who have only a frail screen of plaster between themselves and the good or evil chances of close neighborhood—what endless possibilities for contacts! Streets and speedways, Babylonian palaces and shabby makeshifts in moldering brick—bite by their very contrasts. Even the configuration of the monstrous city, set on a spit of land thrust seaward like a thirsty tongue surrounded by bleak waters that seem all the more savage for the flotsam cast on their surface, imposes a sort of wild beauty on its fret and fury, the grandeur and squalor of it all, and invests the very mechanism of its daily life, the whence and whither of its transport with a kind of savage beauty. What artist shall convey the effect of its overpowering confusions? What poet in words, the novitiate of his first

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