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A striking book review
- Hugh Kenner provides the best modern example I know of anger provoking genius into a review that might stand on its own as a literary masterpiece. Kenner was the foremost expositor of literary modernism. In The Reactionaries by John Harrison, a forgotten critical mediocrity, Harrison had brought Yeats, Wyndham Lewis, Pound, Eliot and Lawrence before the bar of liberal judgment and found them all wanting on political grounds. In his review of Harrison's book ("The Sleep Machine," collected in William Buckley's anthology Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?), Kenner noted that Harrison's book had been a critical hit among the tastemakers [...] despite Harrison's utter cluelessness regarding the authors under discussion. Kenner was not amused:
- This fatuity, this ignorance, this silliness, this stark insensibility, none of it would be worth five minutes' attention but for the highly symptomatic fact that reviewers paid it no heed at all in their headlong endorsement of Mr. Harrison's attitudes. The Reactionaries is not only a tract of writing thought publishable in 1967, it's something influential pundits in that year were willing to endorse. That is its interest. In itself it's negligible. Were it a doctoral dissertation its contribution to knowledge would be this, that we should know how unqualified was its director. The author is imperfectly acquainted with his material, grossly unacquainted with the existing scholarship, and not always free from the suspicion of having leafed through big books for telling things to quote. And yet, that gratitude, those plaudits, those reviews! Can we conclude anything from those, beyond the fact that reviewers read rather fast?
The link to hughkenner.org should be removed. It's a bogus website designed to garner clicks from the unwary. Its helpfulness to anyone interested in Hugh Kenner is nil. (````) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dweissma (talk • contribs) 14:20, 7 December 2009 (UTC)
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