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110 Western American Literature The Midland: A Venture in Literary Regionalism. By Milton M. Reigelman. (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1975. xiv + 137 pages, $4.95.) Aficionados of western writing should welcome this brief volume for its part in helping to reinterpret American literature of the 1920s. Too often the decade or so after the First World War is treated as if it were a period completely dominated by the writers of the Lost Generation. This volume is persuasive in suggesting that regional writers — as well as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Dos Passos— were an important part of the literary culture of the 1920s. Professor Reigelman argues that a regional literary movement arose in the late teens and early 20s and made a large contribution to American literary history. A notable part of this regional movement, he adds, was The Midland magazine. Reigelman divides his study into three sections. First he details the history of The Midland from its beginnings in 1915 when the editor, John T. Frederick, was still a student at the University of Iowa until the maga­ zine’s demise in 1933. The author then devotes a chapter to the notable role of The Midland in the regionalist movement, and the third section is an analysis of the contents of the magazine. Finally, the author includes a twenty-eight page list of contributors to The Midland and an index of books reviewed in the journal. His research is based on a small group of letters to and from Frederick, interviews with the editor before his death in 1975, and interviews and correspondence with others who wrote for the magazine. Most of the study, however, is based on Reigelman’s thorough reading of the fiction, poems, essays, and reviews that appeared in the journal. During the eighteen years of its existence under the editorship of Frederick, The Midland printed about 400 stories and 1000 poems. Such writers as Ruth Suckow, Loren Eiseley, Howard Mumford Jones, McKinley Kantor, and John Neihardt appeared in the magazine, and they and other writers helped the journal to gain a nation-wide reputation as one of the notable little magazines in America. In fact, no less an observer than H. L. Mencken pointed out in 1923 that The Midland “is probably the most influential literary periodical ever set up in America though its actual circulation has always been small” (p. 20). As Reigelman shows, Frederick and his co-editors were convinced that New York City and most of the mass circulation magazines pandered to the tastes of editors and readers, and thus they believed these magazines had a detrimental influence on American literature. By contrast, Frederick argued that The Midland and other regional magazines could be the outlet for superior writing if authors were encouraged to write well and to deal with the experiences they knew best — those of their immediate surroundings. Because these were the convictions of the editorial staff of Midland, the journal tended to publish writing strongly rooted to the rural Midwest and which often was hostile to the East and to cities. Overall, the author has provided a balanced account. He argues that Reviews 111 much of the writing in The Midland was better than that which appeared in contemporary magazines, and he shows that Frederick’s patience, encour­ agement, and demands paid off: most observers of the American literary scene had a high regard for the journal. At the same time, Reigelman admits that Frederick’s predilections were sometimes too provincial; he had little regard for Henry James and T. S. Eliot, and he seemed unwilling to criticize anything about the Midwest. Reigelman’s monograph is smoothly written and persuasively argued. He provides a useful introduction to the role of one little magazine in the regional literary movement between the two world wars. Had the author chosen not to be so brief and had he made more comparisons with such journals as Prairie Schooner, Southwest Review, and Frontier, he would have added a great deal to an already useful study. RICHARD W. ETULAIN, Idaho State University Selected Writings of Joaquin Miller. Edited with Introduction and Notes by Alan Rosenus. (Eugene: Urion Press, 1977 [c. 1976]. xv + 268 pages...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 110-111
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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