Edmund Wilson Essays
At the end, Wilson wrote exclusively for the and in its style of those years, favoring obscure details on topics of no social relevance to emulate stuffy, late Victorian erudition of the pompous, eccentric and boring with a lot of time on their hands.But let’s see what it looks like from the other end, from 1920 onwards.
“Outside society” meant the open intellectual world of bohemia, joining avant-garde thought and writing from Paris, London to New York, or for that matter, Tokyo and Tashkent.
This is the period when modernism in the arts flared before the war and turned into a conflagration after. This was the jazz age youngsters in high school study when they are assigned (1929).
The Edmund Wilson who took up a post editing from its founding in 1920 was, like many of his contemporaries, a “man of 1914,” of “the lost generation,” the jazz age writers shaken out of the windy rhetoric and patrician certainties of their class by the imperialistic slaughter, turning toward bohemian enclaves for shelter, and the international avant-garde culture in its modernist phase for inspiration. Here was the right place and time for a writer inventing a new genre of book reviewing and literary criticism as journalism, more specifically magazine writing.
We still talk in his terms about Proust, Joyce or Dickens and owe him gratitude for launching the careers of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Henry Miller.
He contributed to our understanding of modernist literature in more ways than it is possible to thank him.