A Certain Morbidness: A View of American Literature

A Certain Morbidness: A View of American Literature

A Certain Morbidness: A View of American Literature

A Certain Morbidness: A View of American Literature

Synopsis

Edward Stone here analyzes works of six major American authors and reveals "this irrational fear, the dread of finding Nothing beyond the mysterious and beguiling phenomena of existence" that underlies their literature. He amply demonstrates that the morbid strain in the writings of Herman Melville, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, and J. D. Salinger has made their works comparable.

Excerpt

One of the many things Edward Stone's book, A Certain Morbidness, does is to emphasize the complexity of American literature. He shows us once again how deep it is, and he casts into its depths some illuminations of considerable importance.

His title, taken from a phrase of Herman Melville's, indicates the direction of his book. It is above all a psychological (call it psychoanalytical) study of certain phases of our literature -- a study which moves from a consideration of the non-rational to a consideration of the morbid. One particularly interesting chapter, the last one, deals with the use of Association in American literature. Mr. Stone shows how this begins with Poe's detective, Dupin, in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Dupin, talking to the man whom Mr. Stone amusingly notes is "the nameless predecessor of Dr. Watson," uses the technique of Association as the two men walk down a street near the Palais Royal. Mr. Stone then investigates its further use in the work of other American authors, coming down to Faulkner and Hemingway.

The main part of the book, however, concentrates on six authors, discussing one or two works from each of them. We are thus given new perspectives not only on Melville, but also on James, Stephen Crane, Frost, Faulkner, and Salinger (though I would hardly join . . .

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