News from Nowhere

Each of these three novels is a very—David Storey would say “hugely”—ambitious and assiduous effort to prove something. The contemporary novel seems to have inherited, or at any rate arrogated to itself, the vatic function of such characteristic Romantic effusions as Blake’s or Shelley’s or Wordsworth’s long poems. God the …

Pshaw!

Almost the easiest thing to do with Shaw is to compile a list of his errors and inadequacies as playwright, pamphleteer, vegetarian, anti-vivisectionist, lover, husband, human being, self-confessed great man. Quite the easiest thing is to read him. Except his plays, that is, which (not to embarrass Sophocles, Shakespeare, Racine, …

Then and Now

In the third volume of his memoirs, David Garnett recalled the great days and “grand parties” of Bloomsbury: “At one such party, given I think by Clive and Vanessa, I remember seeing Picasso talking to Douglas Fairbanks senior.” Conrad, James, Ford, Wells, Belloc, Shaw, both Lawrences; Rupert, Lytton. Virginia, Clive, …

From Trollope to Updike

“Books,” mourned E.M. Forster, “have to be read (worse luck, for it takes a long time); it is the only way of discovering what they contain. A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the west.” Still, the harassed reviewer hopes, Forster …

The Over-Wrought Urn

After decades of the bowler-hat and furled-umbrella literit that made his academic reputation, Cleanth Brooks has reverted with a rebel whoop to the Confederacy. His Faulkner book is a Southern blend of vitriol, tart courtliness, regional piety, genealogies back to Adam, the stupefying trivia of life in a small town, …