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15 September 1983
The Forties: From the Notebooks and Diaries of the Period 
by Edmund Wilson, edited and introduced by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 369 pp., £14.95, August 1983, 0 333 21212 6
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The Portable Edmund​ Wilson 
edited by Lewis Dabney.
Penguin, 647 pp., £3.95, May 1983, 0 14 015098 6
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To the Finland Station 
by Edmund Wilson.
Macmillan, 487 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 333 35143 6
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... Lewis Dabney, editor of the Portable EdmundWilson, makes the slightly surprising claim that Wilson’s ‘reputation continues to grow’. I had supposed that it was, at least temporarily, in abeyance, and for reasons that Wilson would have easily understood. Mr Dabney remarks that Wilson’s work ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd

10 August 2000
Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... on whom David Laskin relies most heavily in this relatively orderly account of sexual and matrimonial chaos. Diana Trilling outlived Lionel by many a book; Mary McCarthy enjoyed the same revenge on EdmundWilson; the witches of Eastwick (lacking only their Hardwick) have vented about Robert Lowell. To interview all the exes of Philip Rahv would be an undertaking from which the most committed ...
7 July 1994
The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960-1972 
by Edmund Wilson, edited by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 968 pp., $35, July 1993, 0 374 26554 2
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... Among major 20th-century critics who wrote in English, EdmundWilson (1895-1972) is still by far the most readable – readable anywhere and at any time. Only professionals are likely to find his style, and even his methods, entirely too informal and amateurish – ...

Quarrelling

Mary-Kay Wilmers

29 October 1987
Tears before Bedtime 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12326 7
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In the Pink 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Bloomsbury, 164 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7475 0050 9
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... 1955, a year after Barbara Skelton’s marriage to Cyril Connolly had formally ended. ‘It’s not as though she were rich or a good housekeeper or the mother of his children.’ The following year EdmundWilson asked Connolly, now two years into his divorce, why he didn’t get someone else. ‘I’m still on the flypaper,’ Connolly replied. ‘I’ve got most of my legs loose, but I haven’t yet ...

Liquored-Up

Stefan Collini: Edmund Wilson

17 November 2005
Edmund WilsonA Life in Literature 
by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 642 pp., £35, August 2005, 0 374 11312 2
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... EdmundWilson has become an object of fantasy. A lot of desire is currently invested in him as the representative of a cherished role: the critic-as-generalist, the man of letters as cultural critic, or what in ...

Frognal Days

Zachary Leader: Files on the Fifties

4 June 1998
Previous Convictions: A Journey Through the Fifties 
by Nora Sayre.
Rutgers, 464 pp., £27.95, April 1997, 0 8135 2231 5
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... Nora Sayre’s account of American intellectual life in the Fifties, part memoir, part documentary record, begins with her writer parents and the people she met in their living room in New York: EdmundWilson, James Thurber, Walker Evans, James M. Cain, Nunnally Johnson, S.J. Perelman, Dawn Powell, Joseph Mitchell and John O’Hara. Many of these celebrated figures, artists and authors approaching ...

What difference does it make?

Deborah Friedell: Graham Swift

26 April 2007
Tomorrow 
by Graham Swift.
Picador, 248 pp., £16.99, April 2007, 978 0 330 45018 8
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... tandem with Swift’s decision not to continue the narrative past the point of revelation, prevent Tomorrow from fully examining its subject. In his essay ‘Why do people read detective stories?’ EdmundWilson wrote that writers of suspense fiction claim an unfair advantage over other writers: the code that forbids reviewers from giving away their plots too frequently keeps their pointlessness from ...

Sour Plums

John Lanchester

26 October 1989
The Letters of John Cheever 
edited by Benjamin Cheever.
Cape, 397 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 224 02689 5
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Mary McCarthy 
by Carol Gelderman.
Sidgwick, 430 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 283 99797 4
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The company she keeps 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 246 pp., £4.50, October 1989, 0 297 79649 6
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... of making it an independent, left-minded commentator on literature and politics. The personal consequences of all this were large – she started living with Rahv, and then, through the magazine, met EdmundWilson, whom she was to marry – and so were the intellectual consequences. She has not stopped belonging to these circles, or participating in these debates, and has given offence across a ...

Two Sad Russians

Walter Kendrick

5 September 1985
The Confessions of Victor X 
edited by Donald Rayfield.
Caliban, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 9780904573947
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Novel with Cocaine 
by M. Ageyev, translated by Michael Henry Heim.
Picador, 174 pp., £7.95, February 1985, 0 330 28574 2
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... On 1 June 1948, EdmundWilson sent to Vladimir Nabokov a copy of Volume VI of Havelock Ellis’s Studies in the Psychology of Sex, French edition. What had caught Wilson’s attention – and would surely beguile his friend – was the ‘Confession Sexuelle d’un Russe du Sud’, a pseudonymous hundred-page memoir that for more than two decades had lurked unnoticed ...

Fairyland

Bruce Bawer

2 May 1985
Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald 
by James Mellow.
Souvenir, 569 pp., £15.95, February 1985, 0 285 65001 7
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Home before Dark: A Personal Memoir of John Cheever 
by Susan Cheever.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 297 78376 9
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... during the roaring Twenties; the flapper stories for the Saturday Evening Post which set the tone of the ‘Jazz Age’ while paying the Fitzgeralds’ bills for a decade; the friendships with EdmundWilson, Ring Lardner, Gerald and Sara Murphy, and above all with Hemingway; the insanity that crippled Zelda during the Thirties, and the alcoholism that devastated Scott; the prolonged composition ...

Azure Puddles

John Bayley

21 May 1987
Compton Mackenzie: A Life 
by Andro Linklater.
Chatto, 384 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 7011 2583 7
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... better than Mackenzie and still constitutes a ‘taste’ that can be tried with pleasure. But Mackenzie’s influence at the time was far greater, and it was international. Both Scott Fitzgerald and EdmundWilson were fascinated by him: the lush vivacity of his prose not only animates the former’s early novels (intended to be ‘intellectual’ like H.G. Wells, ‘and improper like Compton Mackenzie ...

Let’s talk class again

Thomas Frank: Demons on the Left!

21 March 2002
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes how the Media Distort the News 
by Bernard Goldberg.
Regnery, 234 pp., $27.95, December 2001, 0 89526 190 1
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... published in 1919, compared journalists to prostitutes), George Seldes (author of the energetic 1938 exposé Lords of the Press), A.J. Liebling (the New Yorker’s sedentary press columnist) and EdmundWilson, writing in 1932 about his discovery that ‘class antagonisms, conflicts, and injustices are real, that they rarely get any publicity, and that the class on top virtually controls the organs ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach

25 June 1987
Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... harshly when she was alive. Now, forty years after her death, they are the subject of increasing critical interest. In her lifetime she was praised by H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Louise Bogan, but EdmundWilson said that One of Ours,* her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was a complete failure and that My Antonia ended on the level of a Ladies Home Journal serial. Lionel Trilling called The Professor ...
16 October 1980
Three Honest Men: Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis, Lionel Trilling 
edited by Philip French.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 85635 299 3
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F.R. Leavis 
by William Walsh.
Chatto, 189 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 7011 2503 9
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... Can you name the author who set you thinking? For Philip French, at a Bristol grammar school in the 1950s, the enlighteners were EdmundWilson, F.R. Leavis and Lionel Trilling. For me, at a Wimbledon grammar school in the 1950s, Bertrand Russell filled the slot on his own, largely because his History of Western Philosophy was so long. But ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: American Books

1 April 1983
... or even an envious interest. The idea of a library of American literary classics, on the model of the French Pléiade editions, might have occurred to anybody, but seems to have been first mooted by EdmundWilson in 1961, when there was already some concern about the inaccessibility of many important American books. The idea was taken up, but in a form Wilson deplored, for the grant money went to ...

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