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

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

Notes: Sex in Literature, Poetry Magazines Spyglass March 28, 1926

Reading realistic and satirical novels, poring over realistic and satirical biographies, absorbing psychoanalysis applied to literature-that's not much of a recreation for spring- time, with Nashville just beginning to cast off its smoke- screen, and with multicolored rayon silks flashing (at bargain prices) in department store windows. What's the matter with all these fellows who write fiction and biography and criticism? Are they sick? Have they merely drunk too much bootleg liquor? Are the George F. Babbitts intruding too raucously into their lonely lives? All of that, probably, and more besides!

Then here's somebody named Ann Heritage (a suspicious name) writing Edwin Valentine Mitchell's "Booknotes":

People say, "What does make a best-seller?" The answer in nine cases out of ten, is "Sex."

It is probable that but for the story of Eden, we should never have had best sellers, for the best seller is the literature of the fall.

This same Ann Heritage lists a few best-selling novelists who best-sell sex stories: that is, E. M. Dell, Mrs. Barclay, Michael Arlen, Gilbert Frankau, Somerset Maugham, Joseph Hergesheimer, Margaret Kennedy, A. S. M. Hutchinson, D. H. Lawrence. Of course, in many of these, the sex theme is disguised or mixed with other ingredients. But it's there.

Depressing reflections, these! Yet equally depressing is the contrary reflection that very many of the so-called "healthy" books are tame and ordinary affairs, very tepid, often silly. After all, D. H. Lawrence is to be preferred to Harold Bell Wright, Robinson Jeffers to Edwin Markham, Eugene O'Neill to the unremembered author of Lightnin'.

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