May fiction not find a second wind, or a fiftieth, in the very portrayal of that collapse? Till the world is an unpeopled void there will be an image in the mirror.
-- Henry James, The Future of the Novel
The pages that follow are an appeal to the intelligent reader, whoever he may be, to put aside the prejudices about the American novel that he has been accumulating over the years, fortified, perhaps even inspired, by the critical pronouncements of his favorite journals. What I propose he accept in their place is at least a willingness to grant the hospitality of his hearth to the American novelist, with all his reputed eccentricity, tediousness, feebleness, and senility; and if what I am going to say has any validity, he will hopefully find not only that American literary productivity is considerably less abysmal than he has been led to believe, but also that the contemporary novelist still has the power to speak to him, to touch his heart, to open for him, even in his own house, doors the keys to which he thought had been lost and which could not be forced by other locksmiths. In his turn he may discover that if all too many current novels' insights seem devoid of centrality or indeed of any significant relationship to his own inner life, this may not be due unqualifiedly to the willfulness of the novelist, but in some measure to the situation of that novelist, to the critical hostility which greets not the end product alone, but even the presumptuous act of creation, and finally to the indifference of the general public, himself included, toward the problems of the novelist.
It is not without significance that some of the severest
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Publication information: Book title: A Radical's America. Contributors: Harvey Swados - Author. Publisher: Little Brown. Place of publication: Boston. Publication year: 1962. Page number: 201.
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