Exile's Return: A Narrative of Ideas

Exile's Return: A Narrative of Ideas

Exile's Return: A Narrative of Ideas

Exile's Return: A Narrative of Ideas

Excerpt

So it was to be the Lost Generation. . . . Gertrude Stein made a famous remark to Ernest Hemingway, and Hemingway used it as the inscription for a novel, and the novel was good and became a craze--young men tried to get as imperturbably drunk as the hero, young women of good family cultivated the heroine's nymphomania, and the name was fixed. It was a boast at first, like telling what a hangover one had after a party to which someone else wasn't invited. Afterwards it was used apologetically, it even became ridiculous; and yet in the beginning, as applied to writers born at the turn of the century, it was as accurate as any tag could be.

They were, in the first place, a generation, and probably the first real one in the history of American letters. They came to maturity during a period of violent change, when the influence of time seemed temporarily more important than that of class or locality. Everywhere after the War people were fumbling for a word to express their feeling that youth had a different outlook. The word wouldn't be found for many years; but long before Gertrude Stein made her famous remark, the young men to whom she was referring already had undergone the similar experiences and developed the similar attitude that made it possible to describe them as a literary generation.

In this respect, as in their attitude itself, they were sharply different from their predecessors. Sectional and local influences were relatively unchanging during the years before 1900, and were therefore more important . . .

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