Writers and Personality

Louis Auchincloss, Author . Univ. of South Carolina $24.95 (125p) ISBN 978-1-57003-580-7

Auchincloss has read widely for this slim collection of impressionistic essays; the short chapter on Prosper Mérimée may well send readers scurrying to their encyclopedias. But for all the considerable charm of his personal reactions to authors ranging from the Brontës to Proust, going through their fiction with his own sense as a novelist of what makes great fiction work, the central thesis—that the personality of the writer may shape, and be discerned in, the writing—is somewhat thin. Most of Auchincloss's literary judgments, such as dubbing Dreiser "a kind of American Zola" or praising Middlemarch as "the greatest novel of manners of the Victorian age," are uncontroversial. Even where he goes against the grain, he does so mildly, noting that Hemingway and Fitzgerald "brought a great art to a minor vision of life." Readers who aren't fluent in French may find the untranslated quotations in passages on Racine and Corneille frustrating. The final chapter on George Meredith is much longer and more comprehensive than any of the other readings, which are only a few pages each. Though the book is suffused with Auchincloss's thoughtful, appreciative readings, it's this longer reflection that best fulfills his intentions. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/30/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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