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310 Western American Literature A Novelist in the Making: A Collection of Student Themes, and the Novels BLIX and VANDOVER AND THE BRUTE. Edited by James D. Hart. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970. 596 pages, $12.50.) James D. Hart has collected and annotated forty-four previously un­ published themes which Frank Norris wrote while a student at Harvard. Blix and Vandover and the Brute are reprinted on the grounds that they are relevant to the Harvard period, relevant to Norris’ concern with San Francisco, and are not readily available. In a 53 page introduction, Hart emphasizes connections between the Harvard themes and the early novels, offering interesting suggestions about the apprenticeship and early life of Norris. The themes themselves—since Norris was working on McTeague and Vandover and the Brute, often turn­ ing in parts of his fiction as classroom assignments—are much more significant than might be expected. In his best novels, Norris used both a visionary style and a style of reportorial restraint (for example, in The Octopus, the description of the growth of the wheat and the climactic gun battle). The Harvard themes illustrate the development, simultaneously, of both styles. It would be easy to attack this study. To some extent, it is a book in the making. The long introduction is oddly repetitive. There are typographical errors not expected in the publications of a major press (including the repeti­ tion of a paragraph, pages 18, 20). And the reasons for reprinting the two novels (the text is the Argonaut Edition, 1928, with typographical errors silently corrected) are dubious. Nevertheless, I believe this is a useful book. If taken as “materials for study,” its unity and purpose are clear. Hart is concerned with the develop­ ment of Norris’ art, and he does provide fresh insights into the importance of Professor Joseph LeConte’s influence on Norris’ thinking, the odd com­ bination of naturalism and the literary gent in Norris as man and writer; and it is of special interest to watch Norris learn how to construct a plot, how to write with “things” rather than with “truths.” Theme number 32, for example, is an early plot summary of McTeague, with Trina as a kinder­ garten teacher and with motivations omitted; and theme number 23, appear­ ing amidst dull aphorisms, is a harsh and excellent piece of writing which the grader marked “morbid and repulsive.” We will always argue, of course, about criticism. Personally, I find Hart’s defense of Norris’ “school boy” science in Vandover and the Brute (it is said to help the plot) too close to the “fallacy of expressive form.” I do not agree that Norris’ naturalism is a technique merely and not an ideology, since I cannot buy the separation. Nor can I believe that Blix and Vandover and the Brute are so close they could, almost, have been combined. And to say that “the transcendent, invigorating influence of nature on man,” as seen in the West, is "Norris’ animating novelistic philosophy” (p. 35) Reviews 311 is to oversimplify the organic unity of nature and sophistication which Norris sought to capture. My objections, however, even if right, illustrate the provocative quality and the value of this book. Professor Hart has made available materials and ideas which should have been made available and which will repay further study. M ax W estb ro o k , The University of Texas at Austin The World and the Parish: Willa Cather’s Articles and Reviews, 1893-1902. Selected and edited with a commentary by William M. Curtin. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1970. Two volumes, xxi -f 1039 pages, chronology, appendices, a note on the enditing, biblio, acknowledgments, index, $30.00.) In the editing of these two large volumes of articles and reviews, William M. Curtin has worked carefully to bring consistency to a good many variants in the original publishing. He gives a full explanation of the practices he has employed in his “Note on the Editing.” In the bibliography he lists more than five hundred pieces, of which over half are in the two volumes. He has identified many new unsigned articles as Miss Cather’s. This is the kind of painstaking job somebody...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 310-311
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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