The Main Stream


The first duty of a commentator on current literature, as it appears to me, is to present a fairly full and veracious report of what is going on. He will have his own convictions regarding the permanent value of various parts of the contemporary spectacle; and, inevitably, they will "show through" in his report. But his first duty is not to exploit his own predilections; it is rather to understand the entire "conspiracy" of forces involved in the taste of his day. What is "important" now and never may be so again has a charm for him which he would think it a kind of baseness and disloyalty not to admit and record.

He conceives of literature perhaps as a river, himself as a scout seeking for the main channel of intellectual and emotional activity in his own tract of time, recurring constantly to the point where the full rush of living waters comes in from the past, and eagerly searching for the point where the flood breaks out of the backwater and through the dams, and streams away into the future. He is always sounding and essaying to discover where the water is deepest now. He tries to characterize the most promising navigators, their crafts, their cargoes. When he concerns himself with historical figures, he seizes upon those who, by reason of some vital congruity, are felt by us as "modern" and pertinent to our present occasions.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1927


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