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About Things As They Are JAMES KRAFT Paul Horgan is known mainly as a historian and novelist, and as a master of a prose style that is now almost out of style in its unostentatious care, its precision, and its clarity. He has written many works of fiction and Things As They Are was not ignored nor poorly reviewed when it first appeared in 1964. However, in the inevitable rush of reviewing, this novel could not be read and considered as it should be. It is a work in the genre of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Le Grand Meaulnes, and The Catcher in the Rye - to which it was compared - but the simplicity of its surface and the precision of its execution, within the complexity of its vision, place it more with Dubliners and Portrait of The Artist. In narratively separate but thematically related chapters, Things As They Are traces the growth in artistic consciousness of a young boy. Mr. Horgan stays directly with this boy, yet he is concerned as well with the loss of quality in the American Catholic life he describes, a life lived just after the turn of the century. Mr. Horgan's success is that he can stand comparison to Joyce, yet the book is uniquely his own. Mr. Horgan's novel Everything to Live For (1968) uses the same central character, who is then several years older. The book is not a sequel, but another piece in a mosaic, a mosaic meant to include a third novel. It is impossible to see the full design at this point, but it is clear already that in Things As They Are and Everything To Live For Mr. Horgan is constructing a fable of American life, of the nation's growth out of innocence and into maturity. The breadth of what he intends to show and what he has achieved in the two publish€d works is considerable; in order to establish the base of this emerging triptych this short essay will concentrate on the first novel. What might initially appear to be a major fault in Things As They Are is finally no fault at all, but an intentional device to move the reader towards a sense of maturity. The sentimentality that can be found in describing youth seems to be present in Mr. Horgan's depiction of his young hero, Richard, until one sees that the sentimentality is, rather, in Richard's sense of himself. He is a young artist in formation and he THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. II, NO. 1 1 SPRING 1971 often sees more than the adults, but he is also fascinated with his own artistic sense as a child. Mr. Horgan is not being sentimental in his vision of a child: it is the loss of this childish vision of purity that, in part, brings on the growth of Richard's maturity. Richard sees that his sense of life is often purer than the adult reality, but his vision is sentimental art in what it does not encompass; he must accept what is in reality to be the true artist of life. And to be an artist, of art or of life, is, for Mr. Horgan, to be the mature man. This is Mr. Horgan's theme written in large: the artistic mind shapes in art the great reality, the great truths, of life, but to be a true artist one must be a viewer capable of seeing things in all their complexity. With this complex capability one's vision of life cannot remain sentimental, one-dimensional. The method of the work is Jamesian in that part of the meaning of the novel is in how we read into the mind of Richard and grow beyond what he often must only sense, unconsciously. At the end there is no doubt of what Richard has seen and accepts, but he cannot articulate what we must. Also the novel makes the Jamesian parallel between the life of art and the art necessary for any life to be well lived. A further point might be made in comparison to Portrait of The Artist. Unless one sees that Joyce questions Stephen's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 48-52
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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