Edmund Wilson Essays

Edmund Wilson Essays-37
Wilson recorded the cutting of school budgets in Detroit, of wages in Flint, Michigan, rising suicides in San Diego, and working people starving everywhere.His was a stylistic documentation, as if Balzac and Zola had become reporters.As all about us has risen, in journals like associated with the early Wilson, a complacent and ugly liberalism which sanctions war crimes, torture and a collapsing of ancient civilizations under the boots of American marines, it would be good to see how it all began, and find out whether it could have ended differently.

Wilson recorded the cutting of school budgets in Detroit, of wages in Flint, Michigan, rising suicides in San Diego, and working people starving everywhere.His was a stylistic documentation, as if Balzac and Zola had become reporters.As all about us has risen, in journals like associated with the early Wilson, a complacent and ugly liberalism which sanctions war crimes, torture and a collapsing of ancient civilizations under the boots of American marines, it would be good to see how it all began, and find out whether it could have ended differently.

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The young Wilson of these volumes is very different from a man of letters, the pose Wilson projected in old age. Mencken, his contemporary, Wilson found in magazines a means to engage and shape a following open to fresh directions in thought and literary expression, especially when delivered by a sleek, new type of publication employing stylish photography, attractive graphic design and an intimate style of address to readers.

He was in the twenties and the thirties the most engaged of intellectuals, more like Albert Camus than Samuel Johnson, a whirlwind of activity, a “journalist and writer,” as he liked to think of himself. In his early reviews, Edmund Wilson displayed a wonderful trust sorely lacking in contemporary criticism—trust in the intelligence and interest of his audience, and dislike of the literary pretensions and genteel ways of America’s patrician elite and the nouveau riches, “the boobocracy” as Mencken aptly named them.

It would have been a typical stepping-stone to political power had he not come down with a debilitating depression that afflicted his son as well at various times in his life.

In 1925, carrying on the progressive family tradition, Wilson joined as editor and writer for the newly founded , the magazine an attempt to give voice to a more sophisticated and newly rich middle-class which elbowed out the patricians with a social conscience of an earlier age, like Wilson’s father.

In his sunset years, Wilson seduced age-appropriate women in the first ranks of literary and cultural life, and dwelt on obscure personal interests ranging from forgotten American Civil War literature and Canadian literature before there was much of it, to Iroquois land claims and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

He was studying Hungarian at the end of his life to read Endre Ady in the original.

He dropped literary criticism as his main area of activity and instead employed his not inconsiderable skills as a writer to report political and historical events.

Wilson joined the Solidarity Express to Harlan County during the great miners’ strike and attended the trial of the Scottsboro boys.

Cutting wit and advanced tastes did not cut it any more.

Like Washington Irving’s Ichabod Crane, Edmund Wilson, under the pressure of the times, got on his horse and rode off in all directions.

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