January 19, 2005

Creative Writing: Yesteryear’s Honor Roll

John O’Hara, James Gould Cozzens, John P. Marquard, Ross Lockridge Jr., Bruce Jay Friedman, A. E. Coppard, James Jones… Gifted men—serious honest craftsmen—their sentences so much like the sentences of those who have lasted—their very names evoke the sound and look of their eras. Yet on rereading we find we had cause not to be interested anymore. What were they lacking, to please so many, so well, so perishably?

Maybe at certain junctures we learn less from thinking about what Tolstoy and Joyce had than about what these others lacked. Not to chase the dazzling archangels who leave footprints pressed into the lawn—but to wrestle the shadows slipping back into the dusk…