The Style's the Man

Overview

With fifty books to his name, Louis Auchincloss has achieved a stature few can match as a novelist, biographer, essayist, and cultural historian. In this new collection of biographical profiles combining literary and social history, Auchincloss aims his polished and finely pointed pen at the authors who have most fascinated him over the years, from Shakespeare's contemporaries to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams. These eighteen profiles, some of which first appeared in The New York Review ...
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Overview

With fifty books to his name, Louis Auchincloss has achieved a stature few can match as a novelist, biographer, essayist, and cultural historian. In this new collection of biographical profiles combining literary and social history, Auchincloss aims his polished and finely pointed pen at the authors who have most fascinated him over the years, from Shakespeare's contemporaries to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams. These eighteen profiles, some of which first appeared in The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review, show the critical insights of a celebrated writer best known for his fiction but equally astute in examining "The Two Marcels of Proust," peeling away longstanding misconceptions about Edith Wharton's early development as a writer, and exploring "Aestheticism and Homosexuality" in Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater. Auchincloss explores the creative tension between style and substance, between fiction and life. His own style is always witty, elegant, and thoroughly engaging. Not afraid to speak his mind, he never minces words, as when he writes about Tennessee Williams, "His heroes and heroines are sexual impulses, his plots a kind of sexual intercourse." The Style's the Man not only illuminates the master stylists in literature but equally demonstrates Louis Auchincloss's own wide-ranging interests, incisive intelligence, and taste cultivated over a long and distinguished career. Here he offers up a literary feast for book lovers and students alike.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This uneven collection of essays (many appeared originally in the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review and New Criterion) is a lesser performance by the prolific Auchincloss (The Book Class). Several pieces reflect his affection for Henry James and Edith Wharton, who share his concerns about the moral responsibilities of the American upper class. There are also interesting essays about William Gaddis and Gore Vidal. But the book's eclecticism is also its limitation: Auchincloss expatiates unconvincingly on the merits of Jacobean drama, Tennessee Williams and Ivy Compton-Burnett and on a purported flaw in Proust's craftsmanship. Auchincloss here seems less an urbane man of letters than an enthusiastic and catholic reader whose sometimes querulous criticisms do not always result in nuanced or persuasive evaluations of the books at hand. (Sept.)
Library Journal
A prolific novelist and essayist, Auchincloss here offers his insights mostly on the literary scene, from Shakespeare, who "gave his audience pretty much what they wanted," to Gore Vidal. Auchincloss's own writing is a pleasure to read-straightforward, elegant, honest. After rereading all 20 of Ivy Compton-Burnett's novels, he confesses that he appreciates them, counter to current critical trends. Other reflections treat Gaddis, Yourcenar, Proust, Pater, Wharton, Congreve, Richardson-and FDR. Auchincloss even names what he considers the three most perfect novels: The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, and The Great Gatsby. This anthology of 18 short, recent essays will be of interest to the literate reader, but because they have been collected from publications such as the New York Times Book Review, libraries with access to the originals may decide against purchasing.-Nancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.
Alice Joyce
Novelist Auchincloss steps aside, allowing his alter ego to take center stage in a collection of short, agreeably erudite essays dealing with distinctive stylistic elements in the works of eminent writers such as Marcel Proust, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Auchincloss apparently takes great pleasure in discussing writers who at one time may have been overlooked (as in the case of William Gaddis), or, like Ivy Compton-Burnett, have been out of favor with other critics. But whether he is designating Tennessee Williams as the "Last Puritan" or discussing patterns held in common in three "perfect novels," Auchincloss offers his own incisive and stimulating perspective on topics of literary interest.
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Biographical profiles of some of the most fascinating authors of all times, from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams to Edith Wharton, Oscar Wilde, and Marcel Proust. Illuminates master stylists in literature & life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684197425
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 9/28/1994
  • Pages: 224

Table of Contents

The Wit of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1
William Gaddis 11
The Tragic Mood in Early Jacobean Drama 27
The Inner FDR 37
The Waste Land Without Pound 47
Babylon Revisited: Gore Vidal's American Trilogy 53
Remembering Marguerite Yourcenar 69
The Two Marcels of Proust 77
Portrait of the Artist as Strether 83
Pater and Wilde: Aestheticism and Homosexuality 89
"My dear blest Percy!": Percy Lubbock and Edith Wharton 99
Courtship in Congreve 119
Clarissa Revisited 123
Tennessee Williams: The Last Puritan 135
The Lyttelton-Hart-Davis Letters 141
Henry James: The Theatre Years 149
Tamburlaine: Existentialist Hero 161
Three "Perfect Novels" and What They Have in Common 167
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