Essays on the Literature of American Novelist John P. Marquand 1893-1960
Studies in American Literature No. 72
This study is intended for a general academic audience, from advanced undergraduate students to professional literary scholars. The book aims to reintroduce Marquand, a respected and critically-received author of the 1930's, 1940s, and 1950s, to a modern (or postmodern) audience. Marquand was considered a master of the "novel of manners", a type of fiction that examines the cultural and social milieu of the author, usually (but not always) in a contemporary setting. Thus, for example, while The Late George Apley begins in the 1800s, it concludes in the 1930s (the novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1837). This edited work contains eight diverse treatments of Marquand, his career, and his novels and stories. Thomas Kuhlman discusses Marquands mentoring of Nebraska author Carl Jonas through their epistolary correspondence, while Millicent Bell discusses the ways that Marquand and his agents handled the "business" of being a noted, and commercial, author. Will and Mimosa Stephenson examine in detail the cultural setting for the protagonist in H.M. Pulliam, Esquire, and show its similarities to the biography of another notable Yankee, Henry Adams.
John Regan turns readers back to the "classic" upper-class/immigrant class dichotomy that is critical to an understanding of The Late George Apley. While Randall Waller examines the structures of knowledge systems evident in Point of No Return, Richard Wires discusses the heroic characters in the popular Mr. Moto series of stories and novels. Fred Tarpley and Mark Noe discuss the ways that labeling of one or another sort can shape perception in the general body of Marquand's work,, as Tarpley discusses the effect of names in Marquand's work, and Noe examines the less-than-perfect role of women in Marquand's fiction. Together, the essays examine a wide selection of Marquand's work from a variety of viewpoints.
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"This collection of criticism offers several perspectives on Marquand. Tom Kuhlman deals with the tricky and double-edged relationship of master craftsman and apprentice novelist. He doesn't tally the score, but he shows that Marquand wins on points. Millicent Bell, reworking her thoughts on Marquand twenty-five years after her landmark study, points out the now quaint struggle between commercial success and esteemed artist, an issue that bothered Virginia Woolf in her essay on the same issue, "The Patron or the Crocus?" How effectively does an agent direct the literary labors of an artist who also earns a good deal of money by his work? Is it art or is it commerce?... Here then are eight distinctly different, thoughtful contributions to the redefinition of John P. Marquand. For future critics, let me add my own questions: what debt does Marquand owe to Sinclair Lewis? And what debt to that master of morals and mores, F. Scott Fitzgerald? Let the dialogue continue. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." - (from the Commendatory Preface) Dr.Richard H. Rupp, Appalachian State University; "Some authors deserve to be forgotten, their works either dated by subject matter or by an aesthetic that has been transcended by subsequent works more remarkable in achievement, but others, because literary fashion whimsically changes, are lost or neglected when they still have much to say to a contemporary audience. Such is the case with John P. Marquand, whose work, until quite recently, has been out of print (The Late George Apley, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was republished in March 2004), and therefore, this collection of essays on Marquand may serve to further interest in this author's work and assist in reestablishing Marquand's position in American literary history. Multi-culturalism and diversity, semiotics and deconstruction, among other hobbyhorses, have been ridden into the ground by the academic world since the time of Marquand's death. The old idea of employing literature to discuss the mores, values, and behaviors of a particular culture at a particular time has been rudely cast aside, hence the relegation of such authors as W.D. Howells, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser and John O'Hara to the trash heap of cultural history. Yet this disposal is disingenuous at best and inherently dishonest at its worst. If traditional literature serves any useful function it certainly involves the exposition of values, insight gleaned from an almost ethnographic depiction of the forces at work in the world the author depicts. Just as Dickens may be used by historians to give some perspectives on the workings of nineteenth century England, so too may Marquand be employed to examine the culture of Boston, its aristocratic business class, in the 1930's... The collection of does a fine job of drawing attention to the oeuvre of John P. Marquand, and such scholarship is necessary if there is to be a resurrection of Marquand's literary reputation. The essay by Will and Mimosa Stephenson connects Hemy Adams with Henry Pulham, a fruitful conjoining grounded firmly in the American experience. Richard Wires explores cultural alienation and isolation in his examination of the Moto adventures, and Mark Noe determines modern gender reversals in Marquand's characters, an excellent treatment revelatory in its sophisticated exegesis of impending changes in the traditional social order, proving, in some measure, that Marquand was ahead of his time. This collection of essays incisively keeps the memory of Marquand and his work alive so that the current generation of readers unfamiliar with his fiction will engage it and experience anew Marquand's insightful portrayals of the American character, an experience previous generations of readers have reveled in all along." - Dr. Dale Ritterbusch, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department of English and Fine Arts, United States Air Force Academy"