Winter 1940 • Vol. II No. 1 Book Reviews |

Determinist and Mystic

Adventures of a Young Man by John Dos Passos. Harcourt Brace. $2.50 The Bridegroom Cometh by Waldo Frank. Doubleday Doran. $2.75  Some time ago, in a piece on U. S. A., I undertook to defend Dos Passos against what seemed to me—and still seems—the unfounded opinion that his trilogy was the less admirable because it issued in despair. I tried to point out that the word despair was, in this connection, far too vague, first because it was used with the assumption that a literary mood must inevitably produce in the reader an exactly equivalent emotion, which is of course untrue, and, second, because it was used as if to denote an absolute, when actually there are many degrees and kinds of despair, some of them even beneficent. And I ventured to suggest that a beneficent kind of despair in a novel might be one which would, as I said, cauterize the exposed tissue of a too-easy political hope; it seemed to me that Dos Passos had, among other things, done this therapeutic job.

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Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) was an American literary critic, author, and University Professor at Columbia University. Among the most influential of his many works are two collections of essays, The Liberal Imagination and The Opposing Self; a critical study of E. M. Forster; and one novel, The Middle of the Journey.

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