Edmund Wilson: Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1930s & 40s

Overview

Edmund Wilson was the dominant American literary critic from the 1920s until his death in 1972, but he was also far more than that: a chronicler of his times, a historian of ideas, a probing observer of himself and of the society around him. With this volume and a companion volume devoted to the 30s and 40s—the first two entries in what will be a series devoted to Wilson's work—The Library of America pays tribute to the writer who first conceived the idea of a publishing series dedicated to "bringing out in a ...

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Overview

Edmund Wilson was the dominant American literary critic from the 1920s until his death in 1972, but he was also far more than that: a chronicler of his times, a historian of ideas, a probing observer of himself and of the society around him. With this volume and a companion volume devoted to the 30s and 40s—the first two entries in what will be a series devoted to Wilson's work—The Library of America pays tribute to the writer who first conceived the idea of a publishing series dedicated to "bringing out in a complete and compact form the principal American classics."

Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1930s and 40s gives us Wilson at the midpoint of his extraordinary career as critic and scholar, and includes in complete form three of his most significant books. The Triple Thinkers (1938, revised 1948) and The Wound and the Bow (1941) give us Wilson at the height of his powers, in a series of extended literary studies marked by his unique combination of criticism, biographical narrative, and psychological analysis. Here are his dazzling portraits of Pushkin and Flaubert, Dickens and Henry James, Kipling and Casanova, equally sensitive to historical context and his subjects' inner lives; his scintillating reader's guide to the mysteries of Finnegans Wake and his celebrated exploration of the nature of creativity through the figure of Sophocles' wounded hero Philoctetes.

Classics and Commercials (1950) is Wilson's gathering of the best of his reviews from the 1940s, a collection that exemplifies the range and omnivorousness of his interests. In the exact and fluent prose that makes him an unfailing delight to read, Wilson takes on everything from Gogol and Tolstoy to contemporaries like James M. Cain, Katherine Anne Porter, Dorothy Parker, and William Faulkner. Whether registering his qualms about detective novels, parsing the etiquette manuals of Emily Post, or paying tribute to the comic genius of Evelyn Waugh, Wilson turns any critical occasion into the highest kind of pleasure.

The volume is completed with a selection of uncollected reviews from this period, including Wilson's observations on the work of William Maxwell, Saul Bellow, and Anais Nin.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

The invaluable Library of America turns its attention to writer/critic/essayist Edmund Wilson, presenting in full three of his masterpieces-The Triple Thinkers(a 1948 revision of the 1938 publication), The Wound and the Bow(the 1947 edition of the 1941 publication), and Classics and Commercials(1950). There are also six uncollected reviews from The New Yorkerand the New York Republic. Wilson writes favorably about some authors (e.g., Aleksandr Pushkin, James Joyce) and spares no barbs in his views of others (e.g., W. Somerset Maugham, William Makepeace Thackeray). He opines on such topics as the best sellers of the day and writes heartfelt memorial tributes (e.g., to his Greek teacher at the Hill School in Pennsylvania). Constant throughout is his humanistic approach to literature. Editor Dabney (English, Univ. of Wyoming; Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature) does an expert job on the notes and chronology. This is a required purchase for all libraries, public and academic-even for those collections already having these texts in separate volumes. [A companion volume containing literary essays and reviews from the 1920s and 1930s is also being published this year.-Ed.]
—Morris Hounion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598530148
  • Publisher: Library of America, The
  • Publication date: 10/4/2007
  • Series: Library of America Series
  • Pages: 1000
  • Sales rank: 734,154
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

LEWIS M. DABNEY, editor, is the author of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature and the editor of Wilson's last journal, The Sixties, and of Edmund Wilson: Centennial Reflections. He is a professor of English at the University of Wyoming.

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