Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s

By Malcolm Cowley; Donald W. Faulkner | Go to book overview
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IV: Paris Pilgrimages

1: Examination Paper

People who read books without writing them are likely to form a simple picture of any celebrated author. He is John X or Jonathan Y, the man who wrote such a fascinating novel about Paris, about divorce, about the Georgia Crackers--the man who drinks, who ran off with the doctor's wife--the bald-headed man who lectured to the Wednesday Club. But to writers, especially to young writers in search of guidance, the established author presents a much more complicated image.

Their impressions of the great author are assembled from many sources. It is true that his books are a principal source, but there must also be considered his career, the point from which it started, the direction in which it seems to be moving. There is his personality, as revealed in chance interviews or as caricatured in gossip; there are the values that he assigns to other writers; and there is the value placed on himself by his younger colleagues in those kitchen or barroom gatherings at which they pass judgment with the harsh finality of a Supreme Court-- John X has got real stuff, they say, but Jonathan Y is terrible-- and they bring forward evidence to support these verdicts. The evidence is mulled over, all the details are fitted together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, until they begin to form a picture, vague and broken at first, then growing more distinct as the


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Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s


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