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


Page 270

current of poetry which warms his style and heightens the effect while enriching it. The subsequent loss or surrender of such qualities cost London the higher place to which his genius entitled him but from which the defects of his artistic conscience and his excess of popularity held him down.
  American naturalism has never produced a school or announced a program. Instead, beginning primarily as a disposition to dissent from the milder insipidities of average novels at the end of the last century, it has continued in that disposition ever since. Theodore Dreiser has successively set up massive pyramids of fiction built out of materials ordinarily rejected by genteel American builders as sordid or improper or dull. Though his hand is heavy and his mind not quite made up concerning his materials, his documentation of the age cannot be overlooked. Neither can that of Upton Sinclair, whose radical opinions have cost him heavily with ordinary publishers and public, but whose earnestness and skill in controversy deserve the high praise that they recall Thomas Paine. The past half-dozen years in seeing the energies of Edith Wharton devoted to the service of France have seen the cause of the novel temporarily deprived of an indubitable genius whose work has sophistication, satire, acuteness, verisimilitude, and grace to a degree unmatched among those of her contemporaries whose qualities may be thought of as already proved. At the other extreme from the fashionable New York which she ordinarily portrays is the East Side of Abraham Cahan, a novelist who has written few books in English but who in knowledge



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