Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

I received a great deal of help in writing this book. The first person to thank is Dale Bauer, my most favorite colleague, who read every line on every page in several drafts for more than a decade. Her patience was extraordinary, her instruction luminous, her queries acute and resonant, her corrections insistent and, of course, right. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-36

Why are so few novels remembered while so many thousands are forgotten? Is our literary history incomplete without accounting for these books? These questions, and others like them, have stimulated this study of ‘‘better fiction’’—novels that were better than formula fiction but not as good as high art. ...

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One: The 1920s

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pp. 37-116

In this chapter, I examine the history of the 1920s as it unfolded rather than the anxious study of its self-consciously modernist literature. I begin with the momentous occasion of William Dean Howells’s death to suggest how much the realist tradition survived him. ...

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Two: The 1930s

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pp. 117-193

This chapter provides an alternative way of reading the fiction of this decade. I begin by restating the special circumstances under which ’30s historiography has been written and then turn to mainstream critical opinion and its sense of the decade’s achievements and challenges, pausing to examine the adjudicating of taste that book reviewing played at the time. ...

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Three: The 1940s

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pp. 194-268

I begin this chapter by studying early ’40s critical values, first by reading such key cultural texts as Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book and Reinhold Niebuhr’s Faith for Living, among other important works of the first two years of the decade, to help recuperate the kind of fiction that educated Americans were reading before Pearl Harbor ...

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Four: The 1950s

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pp. 269-328

This last chapter observes the waning of the middle-class novel in the twentieth century before its revival in the 1980s. I begin by assessing the cultural opinion of the early fifties, first by looking at the kind of documents, like the famous colloquium, ‘‘Our Country and Our Culture,’’ that usually mark this discussion, ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 329-336

For some readers, the history of the American novel will always be one of its formal changes—from Cooper, through Hawthorne and Melville, to James and onward through Hemingway and Faulkner, on through the early postmodernists, culminating in Pynchon or DeLillo or Morrison. ...

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Postscript

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pp. 337-346

In writing a book devoted to the middle-class realism of mid-twentieth-century American fiction, three concerns of method and scope persisted. Since I was describing a subject of previously unregistered proportions, I first had to determine what kind of literary history I was writing: ...

Notes

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pp. 347-364

Bibliography

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pp. 365-424

Index

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pp. 425-450