Contemporary American Novelists (1900-1920) eBook

Carl Clinton Van Doren
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 133 pages of information about Contemporary American Novelists (1900-1920).
the direction marked by Linda Condon than in that marked by Java Head.  The rumor that his friends advise him to become a “period novelist” must disquiet his admirers—­even those among them who cannot think him likely to act upon advice so dangerous to his art.  Doubtless he could go on and write another Salammbo, but he does not need to:  he has already written Java Head.  When a novelist has reached the limits of decoration there still stretches out before him the endless road—­which Mr. Hergesheimer has given evidence that he can travel—­of the interpretation and elucidation of human character and its devious fortunes in the world.

CHAPTER IV

NEW STYLE

1.  EMERGENT TYPES

Ellen Glasgow

Fiction, no less than life, has its broad flats and shallows from which distinction emerges only now and then, when some superior veracity or beauty or energy lifts a novelist or a novel above the mortal average.  Consider, for example, the work of Ellen Glasgow.  In her representations of contemporary Virginia she long stood with the local colorists, practising with more grace than strength what has come to seem an older style; in her heroic records of the Virginia of the Civil War and Reconstruction she frequently fell into the orthodox monotone of the historical romancers.  By virtue of two noticeable qualities, however, she has in her later books emerged from the level established by the majority and has ranged herself with writers who seem newer and fresher than her early models.

One quality is her sense for the texture of life, which imparts to The Miller of Old Church a thickness of atmosphere decisively above that of most local color novels.  She has admitted into her story various classes of society which traditional Virginia fiction regularly neglects; she has enriched her narrative with fresh and sweet descriptions of the soft Virginia landscape; she has bound her plot together with the best of all ligatures—­intelligence.  If certain of her characters—­Abel Revercomb, Reuben Merryweather, Betsey Bottom—­seem at times a little too much like certain of Thomas Hardy’s rustics, still the resemblance is hardly greater than that which actually exists between parts of rural Virginia and rural Wessex; Miss Glasgow is at least as faithful to her scene as if she had devoted herself solely to a chronicle of rich planters, poor whites, and obeisant freedmen.  Without any important sacrifice of reality she has enlarged her material by lifting it toward the plane of the pastoral and rounding it out with poetic abundance instead of whittling it down with provincial shrewdness or weakening it with village sentimentalism.

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Contemporary American Novelists (1900-1920) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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