The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

minious. In Red Sand Mr. Stribling did this, or came very near it. In Teeftallow he has not even attempted to do it and by that act he has neglected an opportunity rich as a Thomas Hardy or a Knut Hamsun ever had.

Elizabeth Madox Roberts


Spyglass September 5, 1926

It is an extreme statement, no doubt, to say that up to the present time there have been very few really adequate novels dealing with rural life in America. Yet such a statement might be defended. Lay patriotism aside for the moment and try to make a list of novels of the American countryside comparable to any of Thomas Hardy's best. You will find plenty of books with "local color," all the way from Bret Harte to Emerson Hough and T. S. Stribling. But how few of abiding merit! How few that are free from sentimentality or from its opposite, caricature! How few that have the inner dignity and self-sufficiency of great art! To find the reasons for this condition would involve long investigation and debate. But one reason may be suggested here. It is a foolishly obvious one. Seldom in American literary history have we had the necessary combination of an artist who was an artist by nature and training and who at the same time lived so intimately with the people of hill or plain that he knew them as well as he knew his own soul. Seldom have we had a real artist who was able to approach people with the perfect sympathy and yet the detachment demanded in the highest art.

-16-

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