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Re: [mythsoc] Re: New article series: Interviews with the Scholars

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  • Mike Foster
    Edmund Wilson apparently liked Edna St. Vincent Millay, based on the Nancy Milford Edna biography Savage Grace and her letters to him. But then all the boys
    Message 1 of 15 , Oct 15, 2011
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      Edmund Wilson apparently liked Edna St. Vincent Millay, based on the Nancy Milford Edna biography Savage Grace and her letters to him. 
       
      But then all the boys around the bar liked Edna.
       
      Mike
       
      Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2011 5:32 PM
      Subject: [mythsoc] Re: New article series: Interviews with the Scholars
       
       

      Thanks to both Michael and Janet for the fascinating interview!

      From the article
      MM: Do you think there was anything similar in Sayers and Tolkien's writing that might have put off Wilson's personal interests?

      JBC: No, I wasn't aware that Wilson didn't like Sayers either. But I can see that there's a certain moral clarity and decisiveness to both of them that a critic like Wilson might read as absolutist and anti-modern, maybe even dictatorial and elitist.

      As regards Wilson's dislikes, it's worth keeping in mind that the comments on Sayers were part of an article "Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd" in which IIRC he dismissed all detective literature except Sherlock Holmes, and that he wrote another article in which he argued that Kafka was badly overrated. Wilson disliked lots of things.

    • John Rateliff
      ... Yes, Wilson was in love with Millay. So much so that he s been accused of promotion her as a major talent simply because of his personal attraction. One
      Message 2 of 15 , Oct 18, 2011
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        On Oct 15, 2011, at 4:27 PM, Mike Foster wrote:
        Edmund Wilson apparently liked Edna St. Vincent Millay, based on the Nancy Milford Edna biography Savage Grace and her letters to him. 

        Yes, Wilson was in love with Millay. So much so that he's been accused of promotion her as a major talent simply because of his personal attraction.

        One thing that's useful to keep in mind when reading Wilson is that he disliked the English (much preferring French literature and culture), despised all things medieval (being a major advocate of modernism) and disparaged Xianity (he once wrote that T. S. Eliot's conversion to Xianity meant that nothing the man said henceforth could be taken seriously). So Tolkien's not the sort of writer who appealed to him.*

        I do think Wilson's article had a major impact, but only on Tolkien studies; people gave him an artificial importance because they kept quoting him and trying to refute him. It wasn't until Shippey's book in 1982 dismissed Wilson by pointing out he cdn't even get the characters' names right that the balloon got pricked. 

        Wilson did say once that his goals as a reviewer were to expose the pretensions of the overrated (in which category he included Tolkien) and to draw attention to those who he felt got overlooked (he was an early admirer of Edward Gorey, and the last major critic to praise Cabell, so far as I know). Oddly enough, he was also a fan of the Beatles' cartoon THE YELLOW SUBMARINE. Go figure.

        --John R.



        *although he did have some grudging praise for THE HOBBIT
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