Samuel Coale's book, In Hawthorne's Shadow, takes as its thesis the idea that Hawthorne's vision of the world and its expression in his work has cast a lingering influence over the American novel down to the present day. In his book he does not so much argue with theories that the American novel has a divided tradition, romance and realistic forms, as he delineates a particular lineage that he perceives.
After an introductory chapter on Hawthorne's thought, he proceeds to a chapter on parallels between Melville and Mailer; a chapter on Harold Frederic; a chapter on Faulkner and, more briefly, McCullers, O'Connor, and Styron; and then chapters devoted to Cheever, Updike, Gardner, Oates, and Didion. He ends with a general chapter on Hawthorne's influence on writers of the Sixties, particularly Paul Theroux.
Coale sees Hawthorne's perspective as Manichean and "a battle between mind and matter, moral imagination and dark void, spirit and substance" as providing the basic pattern of Hawthorne's fiction. As his chapter on Hawthorne proceeds, it seems as though Coale's interest is more in the dark side of the dualism of Hawthorne's vision, as perhaps Hawthorne himself was more interested, or haunted, by it. Consequently, his focus, not only in the discussion of Hawthorne but in the later chapters, seems often to be on the vision of darkness, evil, or emptiness lurking beneath the world of appearances rather than showing the tension between the two worlds associated with Manicheism. The Hawthorne chapter is a bit hard to follow, giving the impression of being almost too distilled a version of a complex set of ideas.
The second chapter of Coale's study, in which he draws parallels between Melville and Mailer, is ingenious and provocative but rather less connected to his discussion of Hawthorne than it might be. The reading of Faulkner in the third chapter is one of the best parts of the book, no mean feat when one considers how extensively Faulkner has been discussed.
The readings of the contemporary writers are generally interesting, best perhaps on John Gardner. I found myself wishing for a little more justification for the works he chose to include and exclude, especially in the chapters on Updike and Oates. And there are places, as often happens when one tries to cover a great many books, where references to the novels are not altogether clear if one has not read them.
Many contemporary critics have suggested that contemporary American fiction has more ties to the romance side of our fictional tradition than to the realists. The main value of Coale's ambitious book lies in its careful working out of the particular ways in which a romantic perspective and its attendant technical possibilities are to be seen in the work of certain contemporary writers.
Stephen Portch's book, Literature's Silent Language, builds on contemporary linguistic and psychological study of nonverbal communication to examine the ways in which it can be handled in literature. Using the work of two different sets of researchers, he arrives at a list of nine different kinds of nonverbal communication [End Page 248] pertinent to literature, from body clues (physical responses to what another is saying) to appearance, use of space, handling of time, and so on.
The difference in kind in the list indicates a confusion the book doesn't clarify. There are really two kinds of nonverbal communication to which we need to be alert, that which occurs between or among characters within the work (as when Isabel Archer guesses at the intimacy between Osmond and Madame Merle when she sees him seated in her presence, a violation of good manners were their relationship as formal as they have led her to believe) and that which is encoded in the work as a direct indicator to the reader of the mental state or motivation of a character. Portch...