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307 REVIEWS 1. In a Wellsian Time-warp Alfred Borrello. H. G. Wells: Author in Agony (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP,~19?2). $5.95. H. G. Wells is as tenacious today as he was in his lifetime. In spite of the steady ebb of his literary reputation, certain of his novels have survived and continue to attract critical attention . During the last decade, in fact, something of a Wells revival was in the offing; it never quite arrived and perhaps it never will, though the forthcoming bibliography of Wells scholarship may lend some impetus to its fulfillment. Clearly, however, more than ever before, studies of Wells's work have established the foundation for a careful, thorough analysis of his artistry. If ever a writer were ready for revaluation, Wells is that person. It is in this context that Alfred Borrello's H. G_. Wells: Author in Agony proves immensely disappointing. When he remarks in his Introduction that "beneath the incrustations of ideas . . . lies another, fundamentally more interesting Wells - Wells the literary figure" (p. xvi), Borrello instinctively pinpoints precisely what any new book on Wells ought to explore. In actuality, this facet of Wells is rarely encountered in Borrello's monograph. Nowhere in the work does he broach an analysis of structure, characterization , style, symbolism, satiric devices, or adapted conventions in Wells's writings. Even the important matter of literary influences is barely mentioned. Time and again in lieu of literary criticism Borrello offers plot summary, assertions, and generalizations with some treatment of Wells's ideas and passing references to the author's identification with certain of his fictional characters. Borrello's study seems to have slipped into a Wellsian time-warp, with the crucial difference that instead of looking toward the future, it echoes the past. Basically the study claims that at first Wells optimistically relied on the force of individuality to provide the panacea for human limitation and suffering; then he shifted this faith in the individual to the idea of a dedicated superior group; eventually he abandoned even this belief to the despair of his last years. Although Borrello seems at times to recognize the need to qualify his thesis, he in fact never confronts it in the complex way Wells's thinking necessitates. On the contrary, Borrello's argument becomes increasingly simplified, eventually issuing in such comments as the following ι "He divided humanity into two camps: the good who espoused Wellsian philosophy without argument, and the evil who rejected it and as a consequence were condemned" (p. 120). Wells, in my opinion, evinces a more darkly-complected ambivalence than Borrello allows, Had he been more sensitive to Wellsian humor, Borrello would, I think, have intuitively felt the tenuousness of his assertion. 308 The sort of difficulty that emerges when Borrello's thesis is maintained at all costs is readily apparent in his discussion of The Island of Dr. Moreau. According to Borrello, Prendick is the enemy ignorant of the fact that suffering is necessary if the beastmen are to achieve the salvation of a rational life (p. 59). Moreau, on the other hand, is "one of Wells's god-men" (p. 59); misunderstood and ineffectual because he is not sufficiently cunning (p. 60), Moreau is one of "the happy few. . . who fight against the status quo, as the champions of rationality" (p. 58) and "is called upon to sacrifice his life" (p. 84). Borrello does not defend these assertions by citing from the text nor does he qualify them. Fidelity to his thesis is all-important, even though in the process such an early work is judged in the light of works written nearly twenty years later (he had previously read The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds in terms of God the Invisible King). Did Wells remain so monolithically consistent and simplistic? does anyone? Moreover, although it is true that Wells later remarked the connection between pain and maturity , can one conclude with Borrello that Moreau becomes a surrogate for the author because he recognizes pain as "the avenue to any perfection of mankind" (p. 56)? Moreau is not the victim of suffering but the creator of pain in others; if he redeems, he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 307-309
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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