The island, of course, is England. Having considered the modern writers of America in A Homemade World and Ireland in A Colder Eye, Kenner turns to the third of International Modernism's "three provinces." His judgment is often harsh -- he argues that in the last quarter of the twentieth century "there's no longer an English literature" -- but his book is a pure delight in its pungent, lively, and thoughtful amalgam of anecdote and critical analysis, detective work and celebration.
A Sinking Island begins in 1895. Joseph Conrad and H. G. Wells had just published their first novels, Thomas Hardy his last. Kenner shows how the modern manner arose in writers like Wells, Yeats, and Ford Madox Ford -- and later in Pound, Eliot, and D. H. Lawrence. Yet all the while, Kenner argues, middlebrow taste continued to reign supreme in England, ignoring the innovative in favor of stodgy literary artisans. By the time World War II ends and we approach the present, the island has very nearly sunk.
Hugh Kenner's account of what went wrong is no less engaging for being sharp, and his wit and essential seriousness complement one another. Marianne Moore called him "entertaining and fearless." A Sinking Island splendidly confirms her judgment.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||1st ed|