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Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
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05/27/2005

Comments

Kevin Holtsberry

The ironic part about Dickstein's comments about art, is that it is only through art (IMHO) can novelists truly expand the readers world. Fiction like art, again in my opinion, can be both an escape and a way to expand your world. But I find neither particularly enjoyable if they don't focus on the art first.

I can read O, Antonia and appreciate its skilled and evocative use of language. I can view it as a way to escape to a world so different than my own. I can view it as a fictional depiction of the past and use it to help me understand that past. And I can do all three and even at the same time.

But it is the quality of the art - the combination of skill and immagination - that will allow it to appeal to readers across time; that will ellevate it from interesting historical marker to classic novel.

David Milofsky

You do mean My Antonia, don't you, or perhaps O Pioneers, but not O Antonia. In any case, I can't see the outraged objection to what Dickstein says, which is mainly true, except for the fact that Dreiser wasn't a realist but a naturalist. Would you honestly say that Howells hasn't been neglected, even if we agree that neglected is only a word for those who are presently out of fashion. The notion that those who are being read currently are in any way "better" is just silly. Faulkner, Melville, Fitzgerald and others were out of print at their deaths, but came back later as readers discovered them. And I don't think Dickstein means that art and morality are mutually exclusive just that in the past perhaps more than now people did read books to provide models and instruction for daily life. On this, read Gardner's comments about great literature being paradigmatic. In fact, what's most interesting about what Dickstein says is his admission that his earlier criticism had important blindspots. Would that all critics were similarly attuned to their failings.

Dan Green

I would honestly say that Howells hasn't been neglected. Or if he has, that it's entirely justified.

David Milofsky

I'm not a huge Howells fan but A Hazard of New Fortunes is an important book that no one (or almost no one) reads anymore.

Kevin Holtsberry

Yes, I meant My Antonia. Combination brain freeze and typing to fast. Plus, should be "elevate" not "ellevate."

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