Collected Impressions

Collected Impressions

Collected Impressions

Collected Impressions

Excerpt

These pieces cover a term of time. Most of the book reviews date from the 1930's, though some were written during or since the war. With one exception, the prefaces represent later work. In Section V, the range of subjects and years is widest; the treatments are strikingly unalike. ' Anthony Trollope' was first broadcast only a few evenings before V-Day. Notes on Writing a Novel and its companion were contributed to the second and third volumes of the memorable Orion : it is to that epoch that they belong.

As critic, the status of the novelist is uncertain. It might be argued that the habitual story-teller would do better not to enter the critical field at all. At the same time, pleasure and interest attach, for the writer himself, to the experiment--there is probably no one who is willing to rest until he has tried his pen upon. everything. Few are the subjects upon which there can be nothing to say: the difficulty is in the manner of saying it. Criticism makes unexpected demands on what had hitherto been narrative style. Clearness, immediacy and honesty, in the expression, are what is wanted: that should be simple. But the writer whose type of mind is, by nature, practical is shy of (and possibly overrates) the necessity, in criticism, for theory. Mechanical difficulties with language are the outcome of internal difficulties with thought.

For a further reason, the change over from invention to analysis is not easily made. No creative writer lacks--can afford to lack-- the critical faculty. He is, however, accustomed to keep the faculty bent, like a hooded lamp, on his own work--which must not be allowed to slip, for an instant, out of the orbit of that remorseless glare. To wrench the neck of the lamp in another, outward direction is not easy; and, even when that is done, the light may not focus with the required certainty. It is hard for the novelist to disengage himself from problems generic to his calling, and, more narrowly, peculiar to himself. He is aware, and may even exaggerate the magnitude, of problems confronting his fellowcraftsman; but in his attempt to define these, to be objective about . . .

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