May. 27th, 2017

osprey_archer: (books)
I was under the impression that the world, or at least the Bloomsbury Group corner of it, broke in two on or about some date in 1910 (and there is something extremely Bloomsbury about the willingness to generalize from a break with social mores in one's tiny social group to a sea change in the ENTIRE WORLD) - but either I am misremembering utterly, or Bill Goldstein is riffing off this quote in the title of his book The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year that Changed Literature. Which is about 1922.

I am not sure that this book wholly lives up to its title; most of these authors neither published nor completed anything particularly stunning in 1922. In fact, now that I think about it, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land is the only one that really counts. Woolf & Lawrence had their best work ahead and E. M. Forster - I actually don't know the critical opinions of E. M. Forster's work; is A Passage to India considered his best? In any case he didn't finish it till 1923.

So don't read this book for the supposed thesis, because it's bunk. 1922 is not a sea change in literature, just a convenient way to arrange an otherwise unwieldy amount of material about four quite disparate people.

However, the book doesn't lean much on this supposed thesis - it really does seem more like a convenient organizational tool than anything else - so it might be worth reading if you're interested in any of the four writers aforementioned.

Or if you just want to read a book that could be entitled Moderate Neurosis: A Writer's Life, this is the book for you. Nervous breakdowns all over the place! Lots of gazing into space while sitting at a desk before a half-completed manuscript! T. S. Eliot spends six months not getting the manuscript of The Waste Land typed, even though publishers are literally begging for it (even though none of them have read it yet! Because it's still in manuscript! WHAT IF IT WAS TERRIBLE, YOU GUYS?) and that is the only thing standing between him and publication, acclaim, and a much-needed infusion of cash.

Admittedly at the time Eliot was in the process of getting his own magazine off the ground and perhaps having second thoughts about having his poem published at a magazine that would be a rival, which leads one to suspect that his dilatoriness was at least as much a business strategy as neurosis.

His publishers are so heroically patient with him, too. When he finally gets them the poem - still handwritten! - they rush it into print in the autumn issue and give him a big fancy prize for it, never mind that this will give his magazine (which is a rival to their magazine) an enormous boost in prestige.

Actually I get this feeling about a lot of publishers of yesteryear: they're often heroically patient with their authors, even when said authors don't sell that well. (Lawrence's sales aren't good at all, but his publisher puts out book after book. Someday he will find his public!) It was a different time.

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