In My Opinion: An Inquiry into the Contemporary Novel

By Orville Prescott | Go to book overview

XII
TWO MODERN MASTERS:

Cozzens Cary

"It is possible to face life at its most baffling and imperfect and unideal, and yet to find it inextinguishably enthralling and splendid."--Lord David Cecil

Several years ago I went to lunch in the cafeteria of the New York Times and took with me a copy of a current novel I was reading in the line of duty. No sooner had I got well settled, with the book propped against an ash tray and a paper and pencil handy beside my fish cakes and spaghetti with tomato sauce, than a fellow employee plunked himself down across from me and fixed me with a glassy stare. "So," he said, "you're wasting your time on another novel."

"Waste?" I replied with just that shade of hauteur which the occasion seemed to demand.

"Yes," he said. "I said waste. Why don't we have any good novels about modern American life as it really is?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, sparring for time.

"I mean," he said, "that the best recent fiction has been out of touch with this country, the U.S.A. What are the outstanding novels apt to be about? I'll tell you. They're apt to be about special subjects, tiny segments of life. Childhood, madness,

-180-

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