In response to:
To Moscow Again from the July 30, 1964 issue
To the Editors:
Reading (with respect and pleasure) F. W. Dupee’s account of the Actors Studio production of “The Three Sisters,” I was struck by his saying that “Russians have a quality denied to other modern peoples: a certain gregariousness of the soul.” My italics. “Russians,” he concludes, “love Russians.”
It seems to me that we Americans have this quality or characteristic in common with Russians; at least with those in their great novels and plays. I myself certainly, despite long formative years in Germany and France, have it.
Why then is our fiction and drama so much less realistic, less comprehensive, and on the whole, less good? O’Hara, I sometimes say, is our equivalent to Chekhov.
Mr. Dupee gives a possible answer: “none of Chekhov’s characters is fully capable of living in the present. I suggest that we are extremely capable of it, as illustrated historically by our restless pioneering—my ancestral Wescotts moved every generation from sixteen-something down to date—and sociologically and morally, today, by our drinking, our sexuality, our talkativeness, and other causes and effects; an ecstasy of immediacy and forgetfulness.
I suppose that in the secessionist states, boys and girls grow up listening to their unscattered elders boasting of their forebears, anatomizing their closely environing kith and kin: natural subject matter of the novel. This may partly explain a shift in the balance of power in our literature, observable in my lifetime, from the Middle West to the South.
Rosemont, New Jersey
September 24, 1964