Figures of Speech

R. Jackson Wilson, Author, Raymond Jackson Wilson, Author Alfred A. Knopf $24.95 (295p) ISBN 978-0-394-49696-2
How five representative American authors responded to the demands of the literary marketplace is the theme of this surprisingly timely study. Emily Dickinson scorned the commercial aspects of writing, yet, in Wilson's controversial view, she was ultimately a crea ture of the marketplace, defining herself against its criteria, striking poses that were at bottom conventional. Ben Franklin, publicist and self-promoter, disguised his attacks on patronage and power in gentle humor, parable and anecdote. Wilson, a Smith professor of history, draws sharp profiles of Emerson, who idealized the ``poet-scholar'' into a harmless custodian of high principles, and of crusader William Lloyd Garrison who filled his abolitionist newspaper with a projection of himself as lone, defiant individual against a corrupt world. Wilson shows perceptively how Washington Irving's best tales mirrored his traumatic attempt to achieve vocational autonomy. These five careers speak volumes about the marketplace todayits sham promise of a limitless audience versus the ineffectual status to which most writers are reduced. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1989
Release date: 02/01/1989
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 295 pages - 978-0-8018-4003-6
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