I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2015. The challenge is to read books that you already own.
The Twenties: From Notebooks and Diaries of the Period – Edmund Wilson (1895-1972)
This book is a selection from his notebooks from the 1920s, when journalist Wilson was working in New York City. Parties, drinking, and lots of carnal relations. The passages, as we would expect, range from diary-type entries to mini-essays on literary figures and their books. He jots down funny stories he’s heard:
…It seems that Nat Willis married a famous circus rider. The morning after the wedding, as they sat at breakfast, he began reading the comic supplement – “Yellow Kid” etc. She picked up a mess of pancakes that had just been brought in and heaved them into the midst of the paper: “Say, have I married one of these bookworms?”
I can imagine the intonation brash mouthy Patsy Kelly would put on “sayyyyy.” He also jots down slang he heard in February 1922, some long-lasting, some long-gone
· ratty: “Well that makes if very ratty for us.”
· crocko, squiffy
· boiled to the ears
· to high-hat
· to crab someone’s act
· to snap one’s lunch, one’s cookies, one’s crackers
· “He’s always doing his stuff.”
Wilson is widely regarded as the preeminent American man of letters of the twentieth century. He was a novelist and social commentator. He also dabbled in history, anthropology and economics.
But it was a literary critic that he had the most influence. For example, his two take-downs of Somerset Maugham in the 1950s assigned Maughm to the ranks of the mediocre. Critics and academics still take no notice of Maugham though his stories and numerous novels like Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge are still read by certain kinds of readers. Also, readers of mysteries will recall that Wilson’s "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" (1945) in which he dismisses the genre with “As a department of imaginative writing, it looks to me completely dead.”