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

Reviewed by:
  • Chicago and the Making of American Modernism: Cather, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald in Conflict by Michelle E. Moore
  • Sarah Anderson Wood
Chicago and the Making of American Modernism: Cather, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald in Conflict. By Michelle E. Moore. (Historicizing Modernism) London: Bloomsbury Academic. 2019. x+247 pp. £95 (pbk £29.99). ISBN 978–1–3500–1803–7 (pbk 978–1–3501–7101–5).

Michelle Moore’s book is a welcome addition to Bloomsbury Academic’s series ‘Historicizing Modernism’, bringing attention to a city whose mindset about business, patronage, art, and wealth engendered antipathy from many prominent artists. American Modernist scholarship’s typical focus on Paris, London, and New York has overlooked Chicago’s role in causing authors’ flight towards Europe’s avant-garde. Moore’s extensively researched archival work provides valuable context, fresh readings of classic novels, and key connections between those who found Chicago uninhabitable for a variety of reasons. Chicago’s artistic and business development by wealthy citizens was focused on inflating the city’s reputation to advance its global prestige. Their insincere promotion of the arts revealed a desire for status, manifested in commercialism and exploitation.

Cather, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway all hailed from the Midwest and had little regard for Chicago. Moore convincingly argues that it nevertheless looms large in their work, whether as a model for the need to separate art and business, to flee the rigid mindset of evangelical puritanism, or to seek a home away from the strings of the wealthy. While Edgar Lee Masters and Sherwood Anderson publicly promoted the Chicago Renaissance in order to boost sales of their work, they privately spoke about their distaste for the ruling families’ arrogance and the ‘vermin that run the literary pages of the News and the Tribune’ (p. 62). To do the work of Modernism these and other artists, such as Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, and Frank Lloyd Wright, extricated themselves from the confines of Chicago. That work, as they saw it, was to be free of ‘commodification of the artist’ and critical censorship, creating art for its uniqueness instead of its saleability (p. 84). William Faulkner called Chicago artists such as Carl Sandburg ‘puppets fumbling in windy darkness’, creating their ‘sentimental Chicago propaganda’ (p. 133).

The reader emerges with new insight into the importance of Chicago in the minds of American modernists, while Moore’s shrewd close readings and archival research refresh ideas about classic texts such as The Song of the Lark, The Wild Palms, The Great Gatsby, and more. For instance, Moore argues that Cather’s novel is an ‘extended critique of the Chicago scene that expects art to be useful, [. . .] treats art as business, and destroys artists by using them’ (p. 71). Fitzgerald’s relationship to the city has received a great deal of scholarship, yet Moore makes new discoveries about source material and historical figures. For instance, she finds that wealthy Chicagoan Cissy Patterson is a significant model ‘for Fitzgerald’s beautiful, [End Page 375] outrageous women from Chicago and Lake Forest’, with Cissy’s autobiographical novel—published three years after The Great Gatsby—naming her alter ego Daisy, ‘suggesting that she too made the connection between herself and Fitzgerald’s character’ (p. 180). Moore’s rereading of Ginevra King, one of Fitzgerald’s early amours, reconsiders critics’ views of her as a disembodied muse and source of Fitzgerald’s low opinion of the rich. Numerous and well-kept letters in the archive between Ginevra and Scott misrepresent the depth of their relationship and the over-emphasis in Fitzgerald Studies of her impact on his writing. We learn much about Fitzgerald’s prejudice towards the wealthy Chicago elite from her willingness to challenge his ignorant typecasting. Moore more thoroughly grounds Hemingway scholars’ views about the Midwest’s impact by providing context surrounding the businessmen of his family, Oak Park, and Chicago itself. She asserts that Hemingway’s revolutionary style was a rejection of Chicago realism and its literary tradition. Her book will be valuable to many fields of study as it redirects our attention to a unifying source of contempt.

Sarah Anderson Wood
University of Wisconsin-Madison