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The Decline of Fiction

April 26, 1987|J. M.

"There is a thorough-going vulgarity in this book, characteristic of its class, which is a symptom of a lack of knowledge of the novelist's real art . . . I mean an insufferable vulgarity, which has crept into so many of our supposedly advanced novels that someone not squeamish, not unread in earlier literatures, must protest against what is cheapening American fiction. . . . What has happened to these young Americans? Do they think that living in a country the most vigorous, the most complex, the most problematical, the most interesting bar none in the world, we are going to be content with sour pap like this? And the tragedy is that they are clever; if they could see, they could write."

From a review of John O'Hara's "Appointment in Samarra" by H. S. Canby in The Saturday Review of Literature, 1934. Quoted in "Rotten Reviews: A Literary Companion" (Pushcart Press: $12.50; 93 pp.), a memento mori of a book that should be on every reviewer's desk.

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