Author: John W. Aldridge
Publisher: University of Missouri Press
Category: Literary Criticism
Since the publication of his highly influential first book, After the Lost Generation, John W. Aldridge has been recognized as a master of contemporary literary criticism. In this selection of brilliant essays he turns his creative critical mind toward some of the major figures of modern literature--Edmund Wilson, Malcolm Cowley, Wright Morris, Ernest Hemingway, Henry James, Saul Bellow, John Barth, and Robert Penn Warren, among others. Throughout his career, Aldridge has been deeply concerned with the relation of society to literature. In "Catch-22: Twenty-Five Years Later" he shows how the novel that shocked and outraged reviewers upon its publication became a monumental artifact of contemporary American literature. In "Norman Mailer: Conquering the Bitch Goddess" he shows how Mailer finally succeeded in becoming a literary hero by embodying the contradictory spirit of the 1960s protest movement, adopting both its blind faith and its cynicism. A new review of Mailer's latest novel, Harlot's Ghost, concludes that Mailer "possesses the largest mind and imagination at work in American literature today." Aldridge traces literary fads in "William Styron's Holocaust Chic" before concluding that "Styron's problem is not so much that he is unable to express his ideas in his fiction as that he seems not to have any ideas to express." "Amidst the tumult and confusion of the times, John W. Aldridge has kept a singular purity of vision," said the New York Times Book Review. While the changing editorial policies of the major book reviews and magazines threaten to make serious literary criticism a thing of the past, Aldridge still believes that books and their ideas have a living relation to daily life. Taken together, these essays offer not only a survey of John Aldridge's distinguished career as a critic, but also an intriguing picture of the evolution of contemporary literature.