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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 266

behavior of a novelist to reveal existent conditions without favors or reserves. In a score of novels composed with a fierce energy he ranged over the American scene in his hunt for snobbery and stupidity and cruelty and greed, turning them up to the light with a gusto not matched by the art of his revelations. Serious as his books are in intention, useful as documents, no one of them is a masterpiece and no one of them shows any very definite signs of surviving, though the bulky Susan Lenox (1917) has considerable notoriety as one of the fullest portraits of an American courtesan. With all his powers, Phillips was crude and heavy: he had neither the bright concentration of Stephen Crane nor the symbolic meaning and poetry of Frank Norris nor the large, blundering tenderness of Theodore Dreiser. He is hopelessly deficient in charm, and his undoubted merits do not make up for the deficiency.
  Jack London (1876–1916) was a novelist of the American proletariat. Born in California, the son of a frontier scout and trapper, he lived as a boy in an ordinary bourgeois environment, tempered by the novels and romantic history which he insatiably devoured. At fourteen he left school to become an unskilled laborer in a dozen occupations, becoming in time an oyster-pirate and a longshoreman in and near the bay of San Francisco and shipping before the mast at seventeen to go as far as Japan and the Bering Sea. In a mood of disgust induced by overwork he became at eighteen a tramp who covered ten thousand miles in the United States and Canada during the hard times of the early nineties and who made up his mind that he could no longer continue



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