Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

12
“E. M. Forster,” The New Yorker
August 1943

Clifton Fadiman

Clifton Fadiman (1904—), a writer and critic, has written numerous nonfiction books, including Party of One (1955), The Lifetime Reading Plan (1960), and Enter, Conversing (1962), in addition to writing juvenile fiction and editing more than two dozen books.

A classmate of Trilling at Columbia College and a fellow student in John Erskine’s famous General Honors course, Fadiman remained a lifelong friend of Trilling. While still in their twenties, both men began contributing to the Menorah Journal, a Jewish cultural magazine edited by Elliot Cohen, and to other New York literary organs.

Like Trilling, Fadiman was devoted to general education and participated in “middlebrow” cultural institutions committed to art and cultural appreciation (e.g., Fadiman was an editorial board member of the Book-ofthe-Month Club and Encyclopaedia Britannica, a host of educational radio and TV programs such as Information, Please! and Quiz Kids, and a member of the board of directors of the Council for Basic Education).

Fadiman was working as the book editor of The New Yorker and had been friends with Trilling for two decades when he wrote the following review of E. M. Forster.

He has been saved by his own journalistic obtuseness; he has never known how to write about what interested the public at the moment. His attention has always been directed to what goes on inside, rather than around, people. Thus, though his books hardly ever reflect current events, they are still perfectly current. Mr. Trilling opens his critique, which he has simply called “E. M. Forster,” by remarking that the author of “Howards End” is for him “the only living novelist who can be read again and again and who, after each

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