New York Mosaic the Novels of Isabel Bolton: Do I Wake or Sleep, the Christmas Tree, Many Mansions

Isabel Bolton, Author, Doris Grumbach, Introduction by Steerforth Press $35 (500p) ISBN 978-1-883642-28-0
On their first publication, Bolton's three short novels won high praise from such reviewers as Edmund Wilson and Diana Trilling (who in 1946 called her ""the most important new novelist in the English language to appear in years""), then slipped out of fashion (and print) before the author's death in 1975. Republished with an introduction by Doris Grumbach, just in time for the author's centenary, these tales of the Upper East Side will surely win their author a new generation of readers. In Do I Wake or Sleep (1946), an impressionable New York socialite falls under the sway of aristocratic Jewish refugee Bridget St. Dennis, dodges marriage and considers how to ""make a whole man"" of novelist Percy Jones. In The Christmas Tree (1949), a matriarch's Christmas gathering falls apart when her divorced, homosexual son must endure the contempt of his own little boy. The Many Mansions (1952) of the third novel are the states of imagination in the life and art of elderly Miss Sylvester, who spends her last years subsidizing a narcissistic young writer. Bolton represents a kind of upper-middle-brow novelist that no longer exists: even before their first cocktails, the characters in these polite, sentimental fictions can burst--unironically--into recitations of Blake or Eliot. And if Bolton has come to sound less like the masters to whom she was first compared (James, Wharton, Woolf), the seriousness of her aspirations will inspire readers young and old with nostalgia for the marketable gravitas of yesteryear. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
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