After the Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars

After the Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars

After the Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars

After the Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars

Excerpt

One cannot speak of fiction without sooner or later speaking of values. The process by which a writer selects, out of the vast store of undigested experience which is himself, the material that is to go into his novel is a process of assigning value to certain portions of that experience. One might in fact say that the quality which most clearly distinguishes literary material from mere experience is the value the writer has been able to give to it within a dramatic or narrative framework. In much the same way, a reader will respond to the meaning of a novel and find it dramatic to the extent that he is able to realize it in terms of his own values. Ideally, the writer and the reader should share the same values, so that the material which the writer selects as valuable enough to write about will automatically be valuable to the reader. But this would depend upon the existence of a society based on certain stable moral assumptions, the sort of society to which, perhaps, Richardson and Smollett belonged, to which, in a different way and to a lesser extent, even Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway belonged, but to which we obviously do not belong today.

I have not intended in this book to trace down the causes for the disappearance of such a society, or the changes which have consequently occurred in literature, since the time of Richardson and Smollett. That would be the aim of a far better and maturer book than this one can pretend to be. But I have been interested . . .

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