The Promised End: Essays and Reviews, 1942-1962

The Promised End: Essays and Reviews, 1942-1962

The Promised End: Essays and Reviews, 1942-1962

The Promised End: Essays and Reviews, 1942-1962

Excerpt

These twenty-odd essays and reviews, all of which appeared in magazines between 1942 and 1962, are the record of a self. education. Rereading one's scattered and occasional writings can be a chastening experience, and deciding what to reprint and what to omit requires a degree of objectivity from the critic that he is more likely to demonstrate on the work of others than on his own tender sprouts. I have included only those essays that seem to me to retain their interest today, and only those reviews that discuss important general issues transcending the books involved.

Rereading my work with that hard objective eye, as though it were the work of someone else, I can now see that too much of what I have had to say over the years has been tied to reviews, sometimes of the most trivial books, and that quite a lot of it has been put negatively. A review-essay form that I used frequently now seems to me to have been a very roundabout way of operating. Its first section would publicly execute a dozen worthless books; its second section would generalize the sad state of affairs in that area; and its third section would propose my beautiful alternative. I have not included these review-essays, except to reprint the third sections in two cases.

The arrangement here is chronological only within groupings by topic, which tends to obscure the shift in my ambitions and preoccupations over the years. The essays of the forties are concerned with American literature and civilization; in the early fifties, the . . .

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