In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Studies in American Fiction109 human condition, there is a sort of contract with the Thou, and one the breach of which must . . . diminish what men have together around that campfire that staves off the dark wilderness beyond" (p. 146). For most readers of Scott's book the essay on Lionel Trilling will be the most instructive, for few of us have ever looked at Trilling's work in the serious, systematic way Scott does here. The essay is curiously more critically judgmental than the essays on Mailer and Bellow. Scott begins by asserting that Trilling's essays "now constitute one of the great and beautiful achievements of the American literary intelligence in our time" (p. 153). The major contribution of his work, Scott says, lies in its bringing "into focus the nub of that central perplexity which is felt by the people whose placement in history has permitted them to be deeply affected by the legacy of Rousseau and Marx and Freud. And thus he makes a kind of exemplum which, in some small degree perhaps, we fail to contemplate at our peril" (p. 154). But Trilling falls short, in Scott's estimation, because "on no occasion . . . has he consented to confront any of the great religious geniuses of the tradition [of Western humanism]: for all ofhis wide-ranging culture, Augustine and Pascal, Kierkegaard and Barth, Tillich and Niebuhr are quite as if they had never been: so confirmed is he in the prejudices of a man of the Enlightenment that not even, as a Jew, does he pay any attention, say, to a Moses Hess or a Franz Rosenzweig, to a Martin Buber oran Abraham Heschel" (p. 210). This, Scott insists, is the tradition to which Trillingreally addresses his work, but his work, unlike the thought of the theologians who provide the basis for the "central modern traditions of secular thought," provides no positive alternatives to the essentially negative vision Trillingconveys. Scott calls Trilling's method one of "aposiopesis" because it creates a gap it does not attempt effectivelyto fill: "And the gingerliness with which he has skirted this final aspect of his enterprise makes for the special sort of disappointment which his work calls forth" (p. 211). Scott nevertheless gives Trilling his due, and Scott's praise as well as his criticism is especially valuable, for Scott himself is working the same area as Trilling and no one in contemporary letters is more familiar with the fiction, the criticism, and the theology than Nathan Scott. The seriousness with which he undertakes to assess Lionel Trilling is just the seriousness with which we should assess Scott—not only in this very professional book, but also in that everaccumulating body of criticism he has been turning out over the years. Northern Illinois UniversityJames M. Mellard Fowler, Douglas. Reading Nabokov. Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1974. 224 pp. Cloth: $9.75. At first glance, Reading Nabokov seems well-written and interesting. Furthermore, Fowler attempts to come to terms with the roles of thepoliticaland the moral in Nabokov's fiction, as well as to evaluate Nabokov's accomplishments and limitations, tasks wellworth the effort. More careful study, however, reveals that the book is glib and the theories simplistic, so simplistic as to have committed grave critical blunders and to havedistorted Nabokov. A glance at the bibliography corroborates this evaluation and suggests the reason for the book's naivete. Fowler has not done his research and he does not present Nabokov's complexity. Reading Nabokov was Fowler's dissertation, completed at Cornell in 1972. The book is merely a shortened version of the dissertation, and even the bibliography has been truncated in the book; I count six entries in the dissertation bibliography missing from the 110Reviews book's, including Proffer's Keys to Lolita. Perhaps more distressingly, the book's bibliography contains no additional entries. While this may be accounted for if Cornell accepted the book immediately after the dissertation was written, what is inexcusable are the omissions from both bibliographies of essential critical pieces, pieces for example on Pnin, which were published well before the dissertation was completed, and which would have saved Fowler from some of his most embarrassing interpretations. Fowler's...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 106-107
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.